Chineme Okafor in Abuja
A civil society organisation (CSO) – the Association for Public Policy Analysis – has alleged that about 95 local government areas in the five south eastern states of Anambra; Enugu; Ebonyi; Abia; and Imo expend up to N28 billion annually on estimated bills for electricity supplied to them by their distribution network. The CSO said this in a statement sent to THISDAY in Abuja.
It also backed the recent directive of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to enforce the service level agreements the electricity distribution companies (Discos) signed with the government when they bought and took over their respective networks in 2013.
Signed by its President, Princewill Okorie, the group stated that Fashola’s latest directive to the NERC was in the interest of electricity consumers in the country.
He alleged the Discos were unhappy with the development because they were gaming in on consumers through estimated bills.
“Discos have always argued that tariff paid by consumers are not adequate to enable them cover cost, but they fail to disclose how much money they generate through estimated billing in rural areas under local government councils they have refused to supply meters.
“Research conducted in the South-east zone of the country that has 95 local government areas shows that Discos generate about 28,000,000,000.00 annually from consumers in the zone through estimated billing,” said Okorie.
He further explained, “Each autonomous community in the LGAs of the zone in Imo state for example is given estimated bill of N750, 000 per month and they do not enjoy the electricity for up to fifteen days in a month.
“In fact, it is suspected that Discos collect over two trillion naira annually from electricity consumers in communities under the 774 local government councils in Nigeria through estimated billing, but still claim that tariff is inadequate without putting mechanism in place to transparently show evidence of revenues they generate from consumers through estimated billing.”
Speaking on Fashola’s directive to NERC, Okorie said, “If the current policy direction given to NERC is carried out expeditiously, Nigerian electricity consumers will be relieved of exploitative estimated billing by Discos. Jobs will be created through small power entrepreneurs.”
He said the Discos were agitating through their umbrella body – the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), “because of demand for them to pay the sum of N859 billion the minister claimed that Discos are owning Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company.” They are also vexed because of the possible competition they are going to face as a result of the emergence of small power entrepreneurs who will flood the places to provide electricity for teeming population of Nigerian residents and entrepreneurs.”
“Like the minister observed, Discos have been behaving as if they have exclusive right to provide electricity to Nigerians. Hence, other entrants into the sector should be stopped. This is very unfortunate because, what is means is that federal government of Nigeria has replaced Power Holding Company of Nigeria’s inefficient monopoly with Discos’s inefficient monopoly which certainly defeats the whole idea of privatising the nation’s power sector,” he added.