*Fashola parleys military on accumulated debts to Discos
Chineme Okafor in Abuja
To ensure all its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) do not accumulate more debt from electricity supplied to them but hardly paid for, the federal government may have approved that the ministry of power takes charge of paying off their monthly electricity bills to electricity distribution companies (Discos).
The government according to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has initiated a mechanism which would ensure that payments of monthly electricity bills of its MDAs are centralised and managed by the power ministry. It in 2017 hinted that such measure was under consideration for adoption and implementation following the discovery that its MDAs owed billions of naira to Discos for supplying them electricity.
He stated this at the flag-off of the second phase of the mass metering scheme of the Abuja Disco in which 222,780 meters were procured by the Disco for its consumers on Wednesday in Abuja.
This, Fashola, who was represented by the Director of Distribution in the ministry, Mrs. Briskilla Sapke, said would bring to an end the reoccurring incidences of MDAs not paying for electricity supplied to them even when funds for such are included in their budgets.
“MDAs Debt is reoccurring, and we are working out a mechanism to bring this to past. This mechanism will ensure that MDAs payment are centralised with the ministry of power,” said Fashola, who also disclosed that he was in talks with one of the Discos’ allegedly most notorious debtors, the Nigerian Military.
He explained he had meetings with the military and other security agencies who owe the Discos for electricity supplies, and who have reportedly refused to be metered or expectedly cut off from supplies.
He noted he impressed it on them the need to allow the Discos provide meters at their various formations and barracks, as well as making payments for power they consume, adding that the military have agreed to have meters installed at their formations.
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Abuja Disco, Mr. Ernest Mupwaya, explained that the Disco would spend N10 billion to execute the second phase of its mass metering programme, and that the meters would come with artificial intelligence components to detect theft of electricity through bypass on them.
Mupwaya, noted that the new measure would make it difficult for theft of electricity at places the Disco would deploy the meter. He also said transformers of the Disco were been fitted with similar artificial intelligence components for consumers still on estimated billing methods.
“Those who resort to electricity theft, I think their days are numbered. The meters we are installing right now, our inspectors even at a distance of 100 kilometres they can interrogate the meter. At night they can switch off momentarily the supply and if they see the lights are still on, then they know there could be a cable which has not passed through meters. Those are the safeguards we have put in place to safeguard investments,” said Mupwaya.
He noted that by the deployment of the 222,780 meters, the Disco would have cut down its metering gap to about 250,000 considering that it reportedly inherited a metering gap of about 450,000. He however noted that new connections to the network would be captured.
Speaking on the losses the Disco records from electricity theft and other operational challenges, Mupwaya said: “The losses are real because what is happening is where we don’t have meters it is difficult to convince customers to pay because of estimated, and you find that there are low payment levels. When you calculate the amount of energy you have supplied and how much you have realised, you see that the gaps are very high.”
“The losses are real. We are conducting a regulated business, so there is transparency in the way we manage the business. They check our books – the Bureau of Public Enterprises, in fact, the regulator has to put a provision of how much we make, they check that the expenditures are prudent.
“It is on the basis of that information that it is a common knowledge that areas where we have few meters, the losses are huge.”
Continuing, he stated that there were also losses which are related to tariff gap in the sector, adding that even if they collected all of their monthly revenue from sale of power, they would still not cover up the existing tariff gap, because according to him, “the price at which we are buying is already high, even if we are to collect 100 per cent, there is still a gap, and that is real.”