NERC to sanction Discos over low metering of electricity consumers

….Says 2.9m households not metered
Oscarline Onwuemenyi
NERC20 April 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has warned electricity distribution companies (Discos) to meter consumers, who have paid for various types of meters since November 2013, or face sanctions.

The Acting Chairman of NERC, Dr Anthony Akah, who stated this in Abuja on Tuesday at a meeting with representatives of the 11 distribution companies, also noted that more than 2.9 million households in the country are yet to be metered by the distribution companies.

Akah said, “Before we conclude our investigation we want to use this opportunity to ask any distribution company that has collected money from any consumer since November 2013 for meter and has not metered him that it is a criminal offence. You can’t hold the consumers’ money.

“Between this time and the time we are verifying, find a way to go and meter these consumers, because the kind of complaints we get on our table every day is as huge as this.’’

According to him, it is the responsibility of the distribution companies to provide meters to consumers in line with the tariff model all over the world.

The NERC boss stressed the refusal of Discos to provide electricity meters to their customers was a criminal act, adding they were ripping off consumers and that it would not accept it.

He said that the commission was uncomfortable with the development, as well as possible manipulation of data on total numbers of meters installed by the Discos across their network.

Akah stated that despite the commission’s introduction of an alternative meter funding scheme to enable the Discos close up the metering gap, they still failed to provide for consumer who have paid meters in their networks.

He noted that NERC was about to wind down the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Initiative (CAPMI) initiative since most of the Discos have performed badly within it.

“In line with the policy trust of the Ministry of Power, we will work on progressive wind down of the CAPMI scheme. As NERC, we are going beyond our regulatory landscape because you have not embraced the scheme as it should.

“People are complaining of being unfairly billed, they are not questioning the tariff as much as the fact that there is no noticeable improvement in supply. We believe we have done what is closest to reflective tariff. We are being challenged, now there is no going back on our protection of the consumers, we are stepping up our enforcement,” said Akah.

He further stated that, “It is grossly unfair if I want estimated billing stopped and you don’t provide meters for me. We are working on a massive monitoring; we will ask for names of people who have paid but yet to be metered.”

Akah said the commission would now go all out to protect electricity consumers in the country from the poor practices of the Discos in providing them with meters.

He said Nigerian electricity consumers were desirous of constant electricity supply in the country. “Nigerian consumers certainly need 24 hours light that is the most important thing they want to hear.’’

He noted that the commission’s engagement with the consumers showed that they were dissatisfied with estimated billing rates, noting that they desired an end to unfair estimation.
He said the greatest challenge facing the commission as a regulator was metering, noting that efforts were on to mitigate the challenge.

“We must protect the consumers; there is no going back on our resolve to step up our monitoring mechanism to stop unfair billing of Nigerian consumers. It is grossly unfair.’’

He said that NERC had written to the distribution companies requesting for clear information on the consumers metered over the years.

Akah further noted that the commission was also mediating on the payment of debt owed by Ministries Department and Agencies to the companies with a view to making the MDAs pay the debt.

Statistics showed that of the 403,255 meters procured since 2013, customers financed the installation of 251,531 meters which is about 100,000 higher than what the Discos have procured as at March 2016.

At takeover in November 2013, the Discos had a pact with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and NERC on bridging the three million metering gap but have failed to reach even 200,000 after two years.

Data submitted by the 11 Discos to NERC indicates that there are 6.159 million customers’ accounts as at December 2015 with 3.206 milion metered. The other 2.953million customers have remained un-metered thereby raising the concerns on the estimated billing system.

While Northern Discos including Abuja, Jos, Kaduna, Kano and Yola claimed to have 1.973million customer base; Port Harcourt, Benin and Enugu Discos have 1,863,708 customers. In the west, Eko, Ikeja and Ibadan Discos have 2,322,376 customer accounts.

Other concerns, the NERC boss raised include wrong migration of customers to higher classes of tariff, and complaints of over 200 per cent rise in the estimated bills of some customers to the Commission.

Responding, Jos Disco contested its metering status saying it has done more than the figure reported. Benin Disco said it uses cluster billing to charge people in a place for the energy delivered to the area whether household entities consume that or not.

NERC also chided Ikeja and Kano Discos’s report indicating that none of its 1.057million customers was willing to pay for meters. However, Kano Disco said despite its awareness efforts, the customers are not willing to embrace CAPMI.

Meanwhile, data contained in a NERC’s presentation to the operators on the level of metering in the sector showed that out of 6,159,775 consumers only 3,206,599 have been provided with meters, leaving a metering gap of 2,955,176.

A breakdown of the status Disco-by-Disco indicated that Abuja Disco with 635, 980 customers has metered only 421,812; Benin Disco with 762, 974 customers metered 520,702; Eko Disco metered 232, 908 customers that make up 407, 285 in its base; while Enugu Disco has 737,423 customers with 220,088 of them provided with meters.

Ibadan Disco which has the largest customer base of 1,247,187 has about 535,927 metered; Ikeja Disco has 667,931 customers but only 453,575 of them are metered; Jos Disco with a customer base of 329,858, has only 168,644 customers metered; Kaduna Disco has 351,359 customers with 219,201 provided with meters; and Kano Disco which covers the densely populated Kano State, Katsina State and Jigawa State has only 399,708 customers with 148,576 of them metered.

The Port Harcourt Disco has a customer base of 368,311 with 219,914 metered, while Yola with the least customer base of 256,759, has just 65,252 metered.

NERC also disclosed that in the CAPMI scheme, of the 403,255 meters procured since 2013, customers financed (through CAPMI) the installation of 251,531 meters which is about 100,000 higher than what the Discos have procured as at March 2016.

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