By Emmanuel Addeh
The federal government Thursday reacted to claims that it was in the process of dismantling and taking over power Distribution Companies (Discos) in the country, saying that it was instead working to strengthen the third arm of the electricity supply chain.
There had been speculations that the government was planning to ‘seize’ the operations of the distribution companies, especially with the coming of Siemens AG, a German energy firm into the industry.
But speaking when he visited the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), the Minister of State, Power, Mr Goddy Jedy-Agba, said there was no truth in the reports of the alleged plan to halt the operations of the Discos.
The minister’s comments came, even as the management of the Abuja Disco lamented that thousands of meters were stuck in the country’s ports due to the 35 per cent duty set by the Customs Service, despite cries of the scarcity of the devices by Nigerians.
Jedy-Agba, who commended the ‘world class’ facilities deployed by the Abuja Disco, noted that the government was doing a lot to sort out the knotty issues surrounding the import duty which is hindering the effective metering of more Nigerian households.
He said: “They (AEDC) have explained how things work real time. This Disco is doing very well, they just need a little more effort , but they are good. Nobody is thinking of dismantling Discos. All we are doing is revamping Discos and adding to them to make them better.
“We also talked about metering. And they are doing a lot to handle that already. AEDC has metered about 65 per cent of their clients. If they do, there will be no problems with the rest of it. Metering and funds collection go hand in hand.”
According to him, issues and disagreements will always arise between Discos and Nigerians unless the provision of meters is ramped up.
“If they don’t have enough or adequate metering, they won’t pay bills appropriately. There will be argument, because you are either under-billing me or over-billing me. This is a business. He (the businessman) invests his money.
“The federal government is working on the 35 per cent duty paid on imported meters. We will soon get the results,” he noted.
In his comments, the Managing Director of Abuja Disco, Mr. Ernest Mupwaya, said that though his company was willing to ensure metering for 100 per cent of its customers, it was being hindered by the high tariffs imposed by the federal government.
He explained that AEDC had metered 4,000 in the first phase, plus 160,000 and then 100,000 on the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) scheme, adding up to 260,000 in all.
“We have a capability of installing 3,000 meters a day. But we have been constrained because thousands of our meters are stuck at the port because of the issue of import duty.
“But we have information that the government is doing everything to resolve this issue so that meters can be made available so that we can ramp up metering because a customer who’s metered has high willingness to pay,” he said.
He lamented that when AEDC took over, it was collecting N2 billion monthly, but said that despite the increase to an average of N6.5 billion, the market bill had been increasing for the Discos.
“When there’s a movement in foreign exchange, the bill increases as a result of inflation, but billing customers has lagged behind.
“Our wholesale price for energy that we receive has gone up by more than 130 per cent, but our own billing to the customer has only increased by 16 per cent,” Mupwaya said.