Billing fraud: Indigenous meter manufacturer seek government’s support on funding

electric-meters*Invests over N3bn on meter manufacturing equipment

Yemie Adeoye

25 May 2013, Sweetcrude, Lagos – IN an effort to curb the new face of fraud currently ravaging Nigeria’s electric power sector an indigenous meter manufacturing company MEMMCOL has advised the federal government to also support the Local Content Act by patronising indigenous electricity meter manufacturing Companies in the Country.

The new face of fraud in Nigeria which is conveniently referred to as ‘crazy billing’ is a situation which allows the nation’s power utility company the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, to impose electricity bills which is not in anyway commensurate with electricity consumption on the citizens and expect them to pay up or be forcefully disconnected.

The situation which is the same across the Country has been ongoing for years and has witnessed a monstrous growth under the helpless watch of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, the supposed watchdog of the power sector.

During discussions with top officials of the Power Ministry and PHCN it was gathered that the situation is helpless because there is an automated billing system referred to as estimated billing which allows their computer to impose ridiculous bills on an apartment or building for the following reasons: either there is no electricity meter in that apartment, or the meter cannot be accessed as at the time of visit which is determined by PHCN or the official designated is unable to carry out that assignment for that month for reasons best known to the official.

It is in view of this daylight robbery on Nigerians that Electricity meters manufacturing Companies like MEMMCOL has decided to shore up their investments by N3 billion in order to meet up with production obligations, especially as thousands of applications for the newly introduced pre-paid metering system is met with the same response nationwide “No meters in stock” a situation which makes the power consumers helpless in the hands of PHCN officials who knows no better than imposing ridiculous bills on Nigerians.

Speaking recently with newsmen in Lagos Mr Kola Balogun, Chairman of MEMMCOL urged the government to give financial support to local manufacturers of electricity meters as such support would go a long way to enhance the growth of indigenous manufacturers in the power sector.

He said that the company has invested over N3bn on meter manufacturing equipments so as to enhance local production of various types of meters and electrical components.

“I feel its important that Nigeria should stop importing electricity meters so that we can migrate from importing meters to manufacturing of meters of various types in Nigeria.

“In MEMMCOL alone, we have a production capacity of 50,000 to 100,000 meters monthly, not to now talk of the productions of other companies in same business,’’ he said.

He said that apart from inability to access funds from government to finance the business, inadequate electricity supply had also contributed negatively to the local production.

Balogun also said that the company which has over three billion naira investment capacity was largely supported by the Bank of Industry, BoI.

“Electricity is a major set-back in our company, since the factory was commissioned; public electricity supply has not been impressive.

“We are basically running on generator, this is one of the major complaint of some of our partners over the years, because our equipment is a very sensitive machine that required uninterrupted power supply,’’ he added.

Balogun said that the company commenced production of pre-paid meters in October 2012 but shut down in November due to government’s pronouncement of free pre-paid meters to Nigerians.

“Government’s earlier pronouncement that supply of pre-paid metres should be free to PHCN customers affected our production.

“Our major challenge is that we have not seen a single order of prepaid meter from the sector since then.

“However, our company is planning to commence full production because of the reversal on the government pronouncement and hopefully, there will be a huge demand for meters.

He said that the company before the pronouncement had staff strength of over 600 but downsized to 100 workers last year due to the PHCN’s inability to procure meters.

He further noted that the company had developed ultra modern call centres for PHCN customers across the country to address customers’ complaints across the 11 PHCN distribution companies in Nigeria.

“This will give customers better service across the nation and address customers’ need. Its also a soft landing for customers because it will interface with all DISCOs, which is another innovation in the power sector.

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