Power firms exploit consumers, inflate bills
04 May 2016, Abuja – part from increasing electricity tariffs astronomically, the power distribution companies have also increased the energy consumption units of their consumers who get arbitrary estimated bills, investigations have shown.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission admitted that it had been informed of the development and had set up task forces to investigate the issue in order to sanction culpable power firms.
An analysis of the electricity bills of various consumers under the estimated billing method showed that their energy consumption units had risen significantly without any given pattern, particularly since the commencement of the Multi Year Tariff Order that took effect in February.
The MYTO order had empowered the power distribution companies to raise their tariffs despite the fact that the move was heavily criticised by labour unions and the National Assembly.
Investigations by our correspondent, which were further confirmed by the National Electricity Consumers Advocacy Network as well as NERC showed that power consumers on estimated billing, who used to get below 300 kilowatts-hour as energy consumption unit prior to the commencement of the MYTO order, were now getting between 700KWH and 2,000KWH.
“What’s the basis for this increase in energy consumption unit? What pattern or model are they following and was it also approved in the MYTO by NERC?,” queried the National Secretary, NECAN, Mr. Obong Eko.
Eko, who displayed the estimated electricity bills of hundreds of consumers drawn from across the country during an interview with our correspondent in Abuja, stated that aside the hike in tariffs, the Discos had also increased the energy consumption units of their various customers who get estimated bills.
He said, “Our letter to NERC stated: ‘Recall that the MYTO 2015 came into effect on February 1, 2016. But while the MYTO approved tariff increase for the various consumer classes, we are not sure if the approval given for the tariff equally extends to the consumption increase.
“Complaints by electricity consumers from the states of the federation indicate that there is an astronomical rise, not only of the tariff as allowed by the MYTO order, but also of the energy consumption units. The classes of customers mostly affected are A1, C1 and R2. And these customers constitute 84 per cent of the energy consumers in Nigeria.’”
Eko stated that in Abuja for instance, consumers on estimated billing, in a randomly selected community, who live in one or two-bedroomed apartments, were now getting as high as N41,000 as their average monthly electricity bill.
He said, “From our findings, we came to realise that somewhere in Karamajiji, a remote location in Abuja, the average electricity bill given to consumers there is about N41,000 in a month. We are talking of people living in one or two-bedroomed apartments.
“And from the survey we have done, it shows that people in this location cannot consume more than 200 units in a month, but you are giving them over 2,000 units as energy consumption. This is terrible!”
On what NERC was doing about the issue, its acting Head/Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Tony Akah, stated that the commission had set up task forces to monitor the estimated bills being issued to unmetered customer, stressing that several consumers had complained of receiving outrageous bills, which were confirmed by the regulator.
He said, “When we did the analysis of the complaints that come to the commission, over 60 per cent of them have to do with payment. We also did an analysis of why Nigerians are resisting issues about tariff and we discovered that it has to do with them believing that they are not being charged for what they are consuming.
“As a regulator, we have decided to prioritise those areas that affect electricity consumers. Of course, without prejudice to all other aspects of regulation, we have special task forces that will enable us to effectively analyse all the data that we are receiving from the distribution companies and those that we get from the field. They are two task forces, one on metering and the other on estimated billing.”
On sanctions against errant Discos, Akah explained that the commission had various regulations that dealt with different infractions by the power firms, adding that those found wanting would be adequately penalised.