03 March 2014, Lagos – With no end in sight for energy consumers, especially those in rural areas, to be properly metered, electricity companies are increasingly extorting their customers under the guise of inflated and estimated bills.
This development is accentuated by the refusal of some marketing staff of the electricity distribution companies to take the readings of the functional metres for the purpose of calculating the monthly bills in order to achieve the high revenue targets set by their respective companies.
THISDAY gathered that since the new investors took over the 10 out of the 11 distribution companies on November 1, 2013, the investors have not commenced the installation of new metres.
The Report of the Committee on Public Inquiry on Metering in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry set up by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had showed that of the 28.9 million households in Nigeria, 23.73 million or 82.1per cent have no access to electricity.
The report also showed that of the 5.17 million or 18.65 per cent that are connected to electricity, only 2.89 million households or 55.94 per cent are properly metered, with 2.35 million households not having metres. For those metred, about 701,385 of the meters are faulty, giving justification for the distribution companies to issue estimated bills to these categories of customers.
THISDAY also gathered that since the new investors took over, customers receiving estimated bills, especially in the rural areas have doubled as the marketing staff of the distribution companies no longer go to the villages to read metres for computing bills.
Though some of the electricity distribution companies have officially denied encouraging estimated bills, some of the marketing staff, who spoke to THISDAY on condition of anonymity, said estimation was introduced to enable them meet the revenue targets set by the new owners.
“If you check your bills since November 1, last year, you will notice that it is rising monthly, whether you have a meter or not. If you check also, supply has been going down in most areas since last year because of poor generation. So, the high bill is not because supply has increased; it is because most of the bills these days, are based on estimation to meet the new targets,” said one of the marketers.
A member of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Power, Hon. Abike Dabiri, alluded to this fact in Lagos at the weekend, when she stated that since the official handover of the assets of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to the new owners in November 2013, electricity supply in the country had dropped.
She also stated that prepaid metres had suddenly disappeared, especially in rural areas. She therefore charged the new investors to ensure that an effective metre scheme was rolled out for electricity consumers.
– Ejiofor Alike, This Day