The Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Babatunde Irukera, has told players in the electricity generation and distribution value chain that what Nigerian consumers need from them is value added services and not complaints.
He also called on the top management of various Discos to look inwards and fish out saboteurs among technical staffers who extort consumers from time to time on issues related to poles and transformers.
Irukera spoke in Lagos, at the Town Hall Meeting hosted by the Commission, in collaboration with the MAC Arthur Foundation on facilitating dialogue and proffering solutions to difficult consumer issues in the electricity sector.
While educating consumers on the fact that issues related to electricity doesn’t starts and ends with the distribution companies, Irukera said the onus is on the distribution companies to educate and address the problems facing electricity consumers.
“Though the discos are the ones interfacing with us consumers but electricity supply doesn’t start and end with them. It starts with power generation companies before it goes to transmission companies.
After this, it goes to distribution companies, which is the last on the value chain.
“But as the gate keeper in the entire process, it is the responsibility of the Discos to address issues, feel consumers pulse as well as proffer solutions. Let me tell our Discos that as consumers, we are willing to understand what the problems are but not willing to excuse the problems,” he said.
While admitting that sometimes Discos get lesser than what the consumers need from generation and transmission companies, the DG called for fair and equal distribution to consumers. He also described as abnormal the idea of disconnecting electricity of those that have paid because of some that are indebted.
Speaking on maintenance, Irukera frowned at the idea of consumers buying equipment like transformer, poles and others, stating that it is nothing but rip-off for Discos officials to task members of the public to buy equipment.
“There must be responsibility and dignity that will enhance trust from consumers. There must be fairness and justice on the part of Disco officials. Besides, it is absurd for Discos to assume that they are doing consumers favour because it is the other way round. For instance, I don’t see anything bad in bill estimation but it is bad if it’s ‘cracy’ as consumers often say.
“Also, there is no justification for Discos to disconnect electricity of those that do not owe because of those that are indebted. It is also illegal for technical staff of Discos to mount pressure on community to buy transformer when they have it in their offices. This is one area the management should look into very well,” he added.
Also speaking at the meeting, the Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Prof. James Momoh, lamented over the low level of metering in the country, stressing that the present metering gap is 57 per cent deficit in the industry.
He pointed out that the present metering gap in the industry is about 5,046,906 when compared to the total customer size of 8,840,801
representing 57 per cent deficit in metering. His revelation is coming barely a month after when NERC began mass metering on May 1 across the country.
He, however, assured Nigerians that the present metering gap would be closed within the next three years with the effective implementation
of the Disco meter roll out plan under the Meter Asset Providers, MAP scheme.
He said: “The commencement of the Meter Asset Providers scheme, developed in line with the MAP Regulation 2018 will go a long way to assuage the long pressing issue of metering in line with the regulatory requirement.”
“The distribution companies have also done extensive work on their customer enumeration to determine the actual metering gap as well as perform adequate “Know Your Customer” to reduce electricity theft and improve service delivery to their esteem customers.”
The NERC boss further appealed to electricity consumers to be patience in dealing with the Discos on meter installation while assuring that the commission would not sit back and watch Nigerian electricity consumers continue to be exorbitantly charged or estimated for energy consumed or not consumed at all.
“Metering is the responsibility of the service provider. And as such, no consumer should be charged for meter.” Prof. Momoh stressed.
Reacting to the issues raised, the Managing Director, Ikeja Electric Distribution Company, Anthony Youdeowei, noted that he was glad that the town hall meeting was organised to address pertinent issues in the industry.
Youdeowei, added that the company recognised the position of the commission in protecting customer right stressing that Ikeja Electric Distribution Company was ready to collaborate with the commission on how to serve the customers better.
“We have witnessed several hostilities from the customers and we have witnessed cases where we had to resolve such issues at the police station. You can’t believe that most of the electricity consumers who are complaining about meter, when we go and install such meters; we also have challenges with them as customers” he said.
Among other issues, participants at the forum asked questions on estimated or crazy billing, load shielding, inappropriate disconnection and consumers hostility to Ikeja Electric Staff.