Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission ( NERC) has issued a new order to Distribution Companies (Discos), directing them, to among others, ensure that customers with faulty or obsolete devices were replaced, without placing them on estimated billing.
In the order marked NERC/246/2021 signed by its Chairman, Mr. Sanusi Garba, the commission stated that part 1 section 1 .2.2 of the Metering Code (MC) provides that only modern accurate meters systems with reliable communication facilities shall be deployed across the industry.
The commission noted that over 7 million customers were currently unmetered as indicated by customer enumeration data, noting that an additional 3 million meters were currently obsolete and due for replacement.
NERC posited that the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) regulations came into force on 3 April 2018 to encourage the development of independent and competitive meter services, eliminate estimated billing practices, attract private investment for the provision of metering services and close the metering gap through accelerated meter rollout.
However, it noted that the commission started receiving complaints from metered end-use customers in the fourth quarter of 2020, that they had been served meter replacement notices by Discos.
In the order to the Discos, the regulator maintained that customers also complained that meters were not inspected by the Discos prior to the issuance of the meter replacement notices.
Added to that, NERC explained that the meter replacement notices did not specify the fault which required the meter to be replaced, saying that the Discos removed meters and placed customers on estimated billing.
As a result, NERC insisted that some customers had not been able to vend on the new meters as activation tokens were not issued and had failed or refused to transfer units from the old meter to the new meter.
It also accused power distributors of billing consumers for loss of revenue that is transferred to the new meter as an outstanding debt without establishing meter tampering or unauthorised access.
“The commission hereby orders as follows: Discos shall grant priority to the metering of unmetered customers under the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP).
“Discos may replace faulty or obsolete meters under the National Mass Metering Programme but these replacements must be done in strict compliance with the Metering Code (MC) and other regulatory instruments of the commission.
“Discos shall inspect meters of metered end-use customers and the replacement notice shall contain the date of inspection, name, designation and signature of the officer that inspected the meter, the fault identified in the meter and the date for the installation of the replacement meter,” it stated.
NERC demanded that it shall be copied on all replacement notices issued to end-use customers for the purpose of conducting random reviews of the replacement exercise.
It said that new meters must be installed upon the removal of the faulty/obsolete meter and that under no circumstances shall the customer be placed on estimated billing on account of the Discos’ failure to install a replacement meter after the removal of the faulty or obsolete meter.
“The customer and Disco representative shall jointly note the units on the meter being replaced and the customer must be credited with these units within 48 hours after the installation of the meter.
“Customers shall only be billed for loss of revenue where the Discos establish meter tampering, by-pass or unauthorised access as contained in NERC Order/REG/41 /2017 on unauthorised access, meter tampering and bypass,” the electricity industry regulator said.
It declared that activation tokens shall be issued to customers immediately after replacement of the faulty or obsolete meter, adding that the Discos shall file monthly returns with the commission on the replacement of faulty and obsolete meters along with their proposal for the decommissioned meters.