By Solomon Asowata
When Tunde Saheed, a 28-year-old banker, received his electricity bill for February, he was both shocked and angry.
The bill listed N 46,210.03 for a two-bedroom apartment he recently moved into in the Surulere area of Lagos state as part of preparations for his marriage later in the year.
For a young single man who lives alone and works every day except weekends, Saheed couldn’t fathom the reason for the high bill except that his house is one of the few houses in the area that doesn’t have a meter. prepaid.
He said he tried to contact Eko Electricity Distribution Company on his official Twitter account after attempts to speak with the company’s marketer did not lead to the desired result.
“I have no choice but to pay part of the outstanding amount when my landlord gets us meters but it is a pity because it is an exploitation by DisCo”, he complained. bitterly.
Many electricity consumers in Nigeria face the same situation with 62.63% of them still being billed according to estimates as of September 2020, according to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
NERC, which regulates the electricity sector, believes that the metering gap for end users remains a major challenge in the industry.
“The data showed that of the 11,841 electricity customers registered at the end of the third quarter of 2020, only 4,425,628 (37.37%) had been measured.
“As a result, 7,416,191, or 62.63% of registered electricity customers, are still billed according to estimates,” NERC said in its Q3 2020 key financial and operational report on the Nigerian supply sector. in electricity (NESI).
The program aims to achieve the goal of closing the metering gap in Nigeria’s electricity supply sector by December.
This would help reduce collection losses, while increasing financial flows to reach 100% of the DisCos market fund transfer obligation.
Part of the goals also include eliminating arbitrary billing, improving network monitoring capacity and providing data for market administration and investment decision making.
But more than four months after its launch, the government’s plan to distribute one million prepaid meters for free to Nigerians as part of phase zero appears to have failed.
Ikeja Electric, which aims to count 106,701 customers during the period, attributes the slowness of the program to the apathy and attitude of some of its customers without meters.
He said: “The challenge we face is that people are not going online to register. Only 57% got to know the customer (KYC) and some even say they don’t want meters.
“There is also the issue of the separation of accounts by customers, which involves installing their electrical connection to the required standard before being able to issue meters.
“Some of them refused to do it and we cannot issue one meter for example for five apartments because it can easily be damaged.
“Anyone who has not yet registered are welcome to visit map.Ikejaelectric.com to complete their registration as soon as possible.”
Likewise, Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC), announced that its goal was to measure 100,000 customers under phase zero.
Mr. Godwin Idemudia, general manager of corporate communications, EKEDC, said the NMMP had already started with a pre-installation survey, followed by the installation of meters for customers.
“Customers who have not yet registered are welcome to visit the official EKEDC website and complete the request form via www.ekedp.com/ordermeter to benefit from the program, ”he said.
However, electricity consumer groups criticized DisCos’ claims that customers were responsible for the slowness of the NMMP.
Mr. Adeola Samuel-Ilori, national coordinator of the Forum for the Protection of All Electricity Consumers, said that even customers who pay meters under the Meter Assets Providers (MAP) program have not yet been measured .
“They can’t blame the customers because a lot of customers want to get their meters, but the DisCos can’t even after making payments for them under MAP.
“The truth is that DisCos are taking advantage of this Nigerian billing and operating estimate, otherwise this metering problem should have been solved a long time ago,” he said.
Samuel-Ilori noted that limiting internet registration has affected some customers as well, adding that DisCos should explore other options to get customers to adopt the program.
“When you run these kinds of programs, you need non-governmental organizations to help you think about it. They need us to follow up to make sure the process is going as planned, ”said Fadairo.
He said the regulations made it clear that any customer who refused the meter should be disconnected, adding that DisCos had no excuse not to install customers with meters.
Mr. Sina Odugbemi, Converner, Where’s the Light Movement, said the failure of the NMMP was due to a lack of sincerity.
“All of these things are just to keep the consumer busy because you don’t need anything to get the meters and distribute them. All of these procedures are only meant to save time.
“I tell them the meters are not there. If the meters are there, they have to show us where the meters they want to distribute are stored.
“The DisCos need to do an audit of the number of meters they have distributed since launching the program and sincerely show that they want it to be successful,” said Odugbemi.
Responding to the complaints, Mr. Kola Balogun, President Momas Electrical Meters Manufacturing Companies Limited (MEMMCOL), one of the indigenous companies involved in the NMMP, argued that meters were available.
Balogun said: “There are meters practically in most places. What we are struggling with is the workforce. We are recruiting more hands to meet the challenges.
“There are logistical challenges because some places are too far from other places, so we need more people to be able to fill the gaps.
“This is why we are recruiting and training so that more people join the installation team to speed up the installation process.”
He also commended the federal government for this initiative, stressing that the program should be continued due to its immense benefits to the country.
“Besides helping us solve this metering gap problem once and for all, it gave us the opportunity to give our young people skills in installing meters that will help reduce unemployment in the country.” , said Balogun.
Experts believe that NERC needs to ensure the success of NMMP by working with DisCos and other stakeholders to overcome these challenges that hinder its smooth functioning.
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