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In a bid to address the complaint by power consumers about crazy electricity bills by the electricity distribution companies, the Federal Government approves funds for the purchase of prepaid meters, writes Olisemeka Obeche.
Electricity consumers in many parts of Nigeria who have been complaining about the crazy bills they were being charged monthly by the electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) through the estimated billing system would soon heave a sigh of relief. This is because the federal government has approved funds for the purchase of one million electricity meters which will be installed in the residence or offices of power consumers.
Professor Chinedu Nebo, Minister of Power, who announced government’s decision, recently said that the owners of the electricity distribution companies inherited a lot of customers who had no meters. “The private sector inherited a customer base in which 50 percent do not have meters. Nigeria has the highest per capital electricity theft in the world. That is why we are now doing smart meters and we are moving to a place where the meters will be mounted on poles, because something has got to be done fast. As a result of the burden on the DISCOs due to meter issues, the President has provided funding to give over one million meters to Nigerians to reduce the gap and then allow the DISCOs ensure that all customers are given meters,” he said.
Although the minister did not disclose how much funds the federal government would spend in acquiring the prepaid meters, he promised power consumers who do not have meters yet will get them in the next few months. “The fact is that the funding has been approved by Mr. President and the funds will be released very soon. These meters are being procured and I do think that in the next couple of months, you will begin to see them because mechanism still needs to be developed on how they will be shared to the distribution companies. They (DISCOs) will distribute and install these meters and these are all being worked out,” he said. Professor Nebo explained that the federal government decided to acquire the meters and ensure they were installed by electricity distribution companies because it is the only way to stop estimated billing which has been a source of disagreement between power consumers and the DISCOs.
In recent times, many electricity consumers who do not have meters in the country have been receiving outrageous estimated bills monthly from the DISCOs. This has often led to protests by electricity consumers who perceive it as a rip-off.
Dr. Sam Amadi, chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had in 2014 promised that the issue of prepaid meters would be put to an end with the commencement of the transitional electricity market. “Consumer metering is a major challenge to the viability of the DISCOs. Presently, there is still a very high reliance on the notorious practice of estimated billing for revenue collection, which is estimated to be as high as 50 percent in some DISCOs,” Dr. Amadi said.
He noted that the high estimated bills issued by the distributions companies, despite the present poor state of supply from the grid has heightened customers’ restiveness. According to NERC, about 50 percent of consumers in Nigeria are without meters. To bridge the gap and address the issue of estimated billing, NERC promised that efforts would be intensified to install about 6.52 million new meters in the next five years or about 1.3 million meters annually.