19 May 2012, Sweetcrude, LAGOS – IN 2005, a new phase of electricity meter was introduced in Nigeria as a way of addressing issues pertaining to accuracy of billing. While the deployment of the new pre-paid meter introduced in 2005 was still on in the Lagos district, further distribution had been suspended in the Ikeja distribution zone since July last year.
But, Pekun Adeyanju, Principal Manager, Public Affairs, Ikeja Distribution Zone of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) said the project had not been suspended in his zone “but deployment has been slowed down.”
He disclosed that the installation of the pre-paid meter is on-going but not as expected.
Adeyanju said: “We are still installing the pre-paid meter but not at the rate expected of us. The issue is that there is a little problem on the part of the contractor that is handling the pre-paid meter. By the time the issue is resolved, we will go back to the massive installation of the prepaid meter.
“I can confirm to you authoritatively that there is no official directive to stop the pre-paid meter. From the feedback I am getting from my department, it is something that people want and the management is trying to do everything possible to resume massive deployment of it”.
According to him, “We are restoring over 7000 pre-paid meters every month and the target is to get it to 10,000 in the next one months. We are not giving out other meter again.
“I don’t know why people find it difficult to get, we have told the people to be informed on the process. All they need to do is to go to the right place. Pay N25,000 for a single phase, N50,000 for three phases. The process is not difficult at all. I have helped some people in getting the meter. But, people will not even make attempt of getting the meter before giving all sorts of complaints.”
On crazy bills, he said, “I believe the prepaid meter will solve that problem. I don’t know why people keep saying that they are billed for what they didn’t consume. But, now that the pre-paid meter is out there is no point talking about crazy bills.”
EFCC investigates contract on pre-paid meters
The new pre-paid meter project of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, in Lagos State had earlier ran into a hitch.
This followed allegation of fraud in the N4.3 billion loan granted the contractor producing the metering device, Sweetcrude learnt.
This led the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to seal off the 70, Adeniran Ogunsanya, Surulere, Lagos business premises of Ziklagsis Networks, the company contracted to procure the new pre-paid meter for deployment to PHCN customers in the Ikeja distribution zone.
An August 18, 2009 posting on the CBN website listed Ziklagis as number 15 on the roll call of debtors of Union Bank of Nigeria with a non-performing loan of N4, 339,343,543.00 as at May 31, 2009.
A source at the PHCN who, however, pleaded not to be named told our correspondent that it was the bank that invited the EFCC.
The source narrated, “That Company (Ziklagsis) was not meeting its contractual obligation to PHCN in Ikeja Zone. Unlike the Eko Distribution Zone where more than 50 per cent of PHCN customers have the pre-paid meter, the rate of deployment and installation of the meter in Ikeja is less than 10 per cent. This did not please PHCN management which now withheld some payments to the contractor.
“But it is the bank that invited EFCC because I guess the contractor was not meeting up with its loan repayment schedule.”
The source further revealed that the bank had threatened to seize several containers of the new pre-paid meters imported by the contractor and sell them to mitigate its loss. The pre-paid meters, introduced in 2005 to replace the old post-payment meters, is popular among PHCN consumers in several cities across the country.
It has been generally hailed as the solution to the twin challenge of controlling power consumption and the infamous “crazy bill” through which the PHCN forces consumers to pay more than they consume in terms of electricity supply.
Before now, there had been speculations that the PHCN officials had sabotaged the new scheme as it does not give them room to continue to extort electricity consumers since the new meter clearly erases the threat of physical disconnection of debtors.
Since customers will pay their bills upfront, the era of collecting bribe to connect defaulting customers would be a thing of the past as the new meter has the capability of automatically disconnecting consumers once they run out of energy credit.