- Says practice is subjective, discretionary and prone to abuse
Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, on Monday disclosed that the executive arm of government would in collaboration with the federal legislatures push to end the practice of estimated billing of consumers by the 11 electricity distribution companies (Discos) in Nigeria.
Speaking at the June 2018 monthly meeting of operators in the power sector which held in Kaduna, Fashola described estimated billing practice of consumers by Discos as being subjective, discretionary and often prone to abuse.
He said the executive and legislative arms of government had taken up the issue of estimated billing and respectively initiated solutions to end it, adding that both would ensure it happened.
According to him, the executive had in reaction to the issue, approved the Meter Assets Providers Regulations (MAP) initiated by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), while the legislature had on its part, sought to end and criminalise estimated bills through a new legislation.
“Meter supply has become the big issue of the moment that consumers want us to resolve. As a government, we hear them loudly and clearly, and as service providers, we hope that you can hear them too,” said Fashola.
He stated that: “As power supply continues to increase in generation, transmission and distribution, the demand for meters will increase because more power supply and consumption will likely result in increased bills.
“Estimated billings in these circumstance will become a major cause of distrust and conflict between consumers and Discos, and meters are the easiest way to build the bridge of trust.”
According to him, “On the executive side of government, we are responding by taking advantage of the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) Regulations to deploy a fund of N37 billion towards supplying meters through private sector.
“We have provided a fund of N37 billion in a bank for access by one of the meter suppliers who we are hoping would be licensed as a MAP to use that funding to provide meters to Discos who are willing to take advantage of it.”
He further explained: “On the legislative side of government, there is a clear intention to intervene by legislation. The executive and legislative response show that government is committed to addressing this issue of meters. It would take some doing but we are committed.”
Reiterating the collective commitment of the executive and legislature on the issue, as well as its potential reach, Fashola said: “Let me be clear that every Disco is affected, no Disco is exempted, we all have meter under-supply and therefore and every Disco needs to respond by providing meters quickly and seeking to end estimated billing, which is subjective, discretionary, and often times prone to abuse, and that is why it causes disaffection between the Discos and consumers.”
“As I said during the public hearing, there are two sides to this coin – there is one side of estimated billing and metering, there is the other side of energy theft and meter bypass, and that is the side also that creates imbalance in the entire industry and it must be addressed,” he added.
The minister noted that two Discos have indicated interests to tap from the N37 billion meter fund to bridge their metering gaps.
He said: “Let me be clear, that the funding was salvaged out of a court dispute, so government is not supplying meters, government is using that money which was meant to supply meters in 2003 as a leverage to support private sector to do so.
“I know that Yola Disco is talking to the meter asset provider to benefit 400,000 meters. I know that Abuja Disco is also indicating interest in 250,000 meters.”