Chineme Okafor in Abuja
An energy expert, Mr. Dan Kunle has called on the National Assembly to enact a legislation that will deregulate the market for prepaid meters.
Sponsored by the Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos), the proposed legislation seeks to criminalise the practice of estimated billings methodology, which many Nigerians consider as extortion
It reportedly seeks to end the discretional powers of electricity distribution companies (Discos) to unilaterally determine the estimated amount to be charged electricity consumers that do not have prepaid consumer metres at their residences or places of work.
The promoter of the bill, Gbajabiamila, said that the members of the house would irrespective of their party affiliations, push through the bill which he described as a masses-oriented bill until it is signed into law.
He added that it would permanently address complaints by constituents across the country against the Discos.
These constituents, he noted have argued that the unfavourable technical manipulation of their consumptions by the Discos were unfair.
He said an amendment would be done on the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005, to include new sections 68 to 72 which will prohibit estimated billing methodology in Nigeria.
But Kunle told THISDAY that it was an overzealous proposal that would add no economic value to Nigeriaâ€™s electricity market.
Kunle stated that in place of such bill, members of the House of Representatives should rather pursue and create laws that would open up the electricity meter market in Nigeria to allow consumers of electricity buy meters from the open market for installation at their residences or business premises.
He noted that a deregulated electricity meter market in the country would drive up new meter installations and subsequently cut down the practice of estimated billing across the distribution networks.
â€œI believe that when the likes of MTN came into this country, they didnâ€™t force phones on people. People bought phones and their sim cards separately. Today, no telecoms firm demands that you must get phones from them to be able to connect to their services, if that is the case, why is it different in the power sector,â€ Kunle asked.
According to him: â€œThe most sensible solution to the meter conundrum we face in the power sector today would be to open up the meter market so that people can freely buy their meters from the open market, take them to meter testing stations across the country for certification and then install at their residences instead of waiting for Discos and then having to deal with the challenges of estimated billing.â€
Speaking on Gbajabiamilaâ€™s bill, he stated: â€œCan he instead use his influence as a top legislator to get the Nigerian government to allow Nigerians buy their meters freely from the open market, the same way we buy telephones and sim cards separately and freely. Does he (Gbajabiamila) know the values or components of a meter in an electricity market? This is the least of the challenges of the electricity industry, and I feel this bill is anti-marketâ€.
â€œThe legislator seems not to have seen the economic impacts of his proposal. He should see the commonsense in allowing Nigerians buy their meters from the open market and use his political influence to push for this instead,â€ Kunle added.