Stakeholders: 40% Hike in Prepaid Meter Prices Will Widen Metering Gap, Lower Demand

Peter Uzoho

Some stakeholders in the Nigerian power industry have warned that the latest 40 per cent increase in prices of prepaid electricity meters would further widen the number of customers not yet metered by the distribution companies (Discos).

They also alerted the federal government that the new meters approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) last week would cause a decline in the demand for prepaid meters under the Meter Assets Providers (MAP) scheme and also lead to an increase in the number of customers on estimated billings.

The stakeholders in their separate interventions argued that the increase in meter prices would negatively impact Nigerians’ purchasing power, especially with the current economic hardship and the minimum wage still at N30,000.

The Chairman, Eko Electricity Customers Consultative Forum,  Satellite Town, Dr. Akinrolabu Olukayode, however, recommended the review and floating of the National Mass Metering Programme Policy (NMMPP) to ease the number of customers who might not be able to gain the required purchasing power.

According to him, since the minimum wage in Nigeria is still at N30,000, it therefore means that many Nigerians will have to save endlessly to procure the meters.

He said: ”The brunt of the harsh reality of a capsizing economy in Nigeria is usually on the end users (consumers).

 “Of course, the reason for the hike is the fluctuating United States Dollar rate. The hike in cost of prepaid meters was imminent before now, because there is always a push and pull effect(s) of a policy decision involving a hike in cost of items with composite appendages, that is dollar rate and meter accessories.

“If the dollar rate falls, will there be a corresponding reduction? Today, none of the vendors is claiming that they have excess in their repository or warehouse because it has to do with increment in their favour.

“But, when the dollar rate drops, wouldn’t the vendors claim that they have excess in their warehouse hence making reduction of cost impossible?.”

Olukayode also noted that the policy which guarantees a refund in units of energy for customers who procured meters under MAP has not been implemented by the Distribution Companies (Discos), suggesting that NERC should look into this.

He also revealed that electricity customers must be compensated one way or the other in order to cushion the effect of an impromptu and incessant hike of cost in metering without a corresponding appreciation of remuneration.

He also said that the vendors who have sent payment invoices of the old amount to some customers – who are still gathering the money to pay for the meters will have to maintain the status quo as the payment invoices cannot be retracted or reversed.

 According to him, the date of payment invoices should be used to determine who pays the new rate in order to protect the customers who had earlier secured their payment invoices.

He further suggested that customers should be compensated in order to offset the negative impact of sudden and frequent increases in metering costs without a corresponding increase in remuneration.

Executive Coordinator of NEPA Wahala, an electricity consumers’ rights group, Mr. Emeka Ojoko, said the number of customers applying for prepaid meters would reduce significantly, adding that the responsiveness of demand to changes in price would produce that inevitable outcome.

He urged the Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, to reinvigorate the NMMP, “otherwise any plan by this administration to bridge the metering gap will suffer stillbirth,” he said.

Lending his voice, the Executive Director of PowerUp Initiatives for Electricity Rights (PowerUp Nigeria), Adetayo Adegbemle, said that it was unfair for anyone to expect the meters to be sold at old rates, adding that the meter manufacturers rely on forex for importation of major components of the meters.

He said the manufacturers were  finding it difficult to raise forex at the official window, adding that that was the reason most of them had been unable to release meters since March 2023.

He further noted that Phase 1 of the NMMP had failed because the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) pulled out from the project because the programme did not have a well-structured framework.

He said the government could  restructure and completely reform the NMMP by committing part of the petrol subsidy savings to the procurement of prepaid meters for electricity customers.

Adegbemle also recommended that Nigeria should use initiatives to deepen home-grown solutions to metering instead of focusing on imported prepaid meters, which would reduce over-reliance on imported meters.

He noted that a structured finance targeted at prepaid meters can be easily tracked and monitored by the federal government.

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