N46m-for-meter scam: NERC slams Citec Estate management for exploiting residents

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

28 June 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – Officials of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, on Wednesday stormed the Citec Housing Estate located in the Mbora District of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, over allegations of illegally collecting about N46 million from residents for the purchase and installation of individual pre-paid meters in the estate.

The Commission has accused the estate managers of obtaining by false pretence, and in violation of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005, between N40,000 and N60,000 from residents, purportedly for the purchase and installation of individual pre-paid meters, for which Citec has no power under the Act to do.

Documents obtained from NERC showed that Citec Estate managers represented to the residents and landlords of the estate that monies totaling about N46 million so collected for the purchase of the meters would be through the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

“Citec has withheld the said sum since 2007 and not remitted same to the PHCN. However, the estate managers have falsely represented to the residents and landlords that they have reached an advanced stage of discussion with NERC on the deployment of meters, knowing such representation to be false but made to deceive and mislead the residents into parting with their monies,” the document noted.

NERC further accused the estate managers of “illegally engaging in the distribution and trading in electricity contrary to the provisions of the EPSR Act 2005.”

Consequently, NERC had written to the estate management in June 2011, demanding the immediate refund to residents all monies illegally collected from them. It further warned them to desist from engaging in electricity distribution and trading contrary to the provisions of the law, all of which the estate management had ignored.

Meanwhile, a mild drama ensued at the housing estate when the estate managers resisted arrest by policemen who were attached to the NERC enforcement team led by a Deputy General Manager in the Legal and Licensing Department of the Commission, Barrister Chijioke Obi who stormed the estate following reports of exploitation by residents of the estate Abuja, over alleged illegal trade on electricity meters and extortion of residents.

The Director of General Services of CITEC, Mr. Jinadu Nurudeen refused to comply with the officers, even threatening to sue NERC if he was forced out of his office.

Barr. Obi disclosed to journalists who observed the ‘sting’ operation, that the Commission had received several complaints from residents of the estate who accuse the estate management of demanding ridiculous fees and charges for procurement and installation of electricity meters within the housing estate.

According to him, “What we heard from residents and what we have observed from our investigation are acts of criminal breach of trust by false pretense, which is in violation of the Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act 2005.”

The enforcement team leader said the arrest became necessary after CITEC failed to comply with the commission’s intervention which required that monies collected from the tenant be refunded.

He noted that, “The Commission views with grave concern and seriousness, the brazen violation of the EPSR Act 2005, the regulations made pursuant thereto as well as the offences of obtaining by false pretence and criminal breach of trust by Citec despite the Commission’s intervention.

“The action by Citec could be regarded and rightly so as an attempt to sabotage the efforts of the Federal government to turn around the power sector especially against the backdrop of evidence of total disregard for the Commission.”

The CITEC manager, Mr. Nurudeen told newsmen that the company bought about 2000 units of meters which were certified oaky by the PHCN but that some tenants who were not in disposed to the project took the case to NERC, accusing them of extortion. Thereafter, the PHCN official refused to install the meters, he said.

But in a swift reaction, the Jabi Special Project Manager of PHCN, Mrs. Hauwa Kulu Muhammed denied that PHCN ever certified such meters procured by CITEC as it was against extant laws. She said for several times, her staff were denied access to the facility for meters installation and that the estate managers have refused to pay electricity bills till now.

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