In this Opinion Editorial, Today’s Echo contributor, Bolanle Keshinro analyzes the problems faced by Nigerians due to the complex and inefficient electricity metering system.
SWITZERLAND, AUGUST 25 – The plan to meter over five million electricity customers in Nigeria who are allegedly being charged dubious estimated bills by the power distribution companies (DisCos) may dash towards disaster.
Recall that the Federal Government during the time of former Minister of Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, had in 2018, through the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC,) introduced the Meter Asset Providers(MAP) regulation to new investors to finance mass metering plan which is expected to reduce incidences of estimated billing to the barest minimum in the country.
However, after two years of the 108-meter asset providers began operation nationwide; the firms are yet to record meaningful progress as envisaged by enthusiastic Nigerians.
With the snail pace of the programme, Nigerians who had believed they had won the battle against estimated billings were drawn aback as solving challenges relating to metering has resurfaced with the change of baton in the Power ministry.
It seems as though that the Distribution companies frustrate the effort of making meters available as estimated billings bring in more revenue for them. The Federal government had introduced the MAP scheme through NERC, which is for the general benefit of the country. Nonetheless, few irregularities have become obvious, and except they are investigated immediately else, the programme will struggle in achieving its goal.
Meter payment process
First, the regulations state that electricity consumers can pay in advance for meters, and others can pay by instalment. Now from experience, if consumer X pays completely for his prepaid meter he has no problems, he can decide at any time to buy electricity or not, but if consumer Y that has
opted for instalment plan fails to vend regularly and vends in small amounts, a situation arises whereby whenever he or she vends, the entire amount of the payment made will automatically be used to service his or her prepaid meter debt thereby leaving him or her in darkness.
Issues with electricity franchise network
The disparity in the price of meters provided by the MAP is another cause for concern. Let us use Lagos state as our case study, now Yaba is divided into two areas in the electricity franchise network. Eko DisCo manages one half of this area, while Ikeja DisCo manages the other half.
“Let us say consumer X, who is serviced by Eko DisCo, buys his or her prepaid meter for N53000 (Fifty-Three Thousand Naira) from the MAP provider and customer Y who lives on the other end of Yaba buys his
prepaid meter for N 63000 (Sixty-Three thousand Naira) from Ikeja DisCo. Do you know what will happen? Customer Y will be seriously aggrieved and may feel cheated, not knowing that the companies that provided the prepaid meters to each of the DisCos are different.
The Cost of Acquiring the Meter
A prepayment meter costs as much as three times the cost of a conventional credit (post-paid) meter. When the prepaid metering system was introduced, the price of a single-phase prepaid meter was about N25,000 also a three-phase prepaid meter was about N50,000.
Other issues include Corruption, Bypass frequently by consumers, Delay in receiving and installing of prepaid meters, and so many others.
The Federal Government has now decided to go digital by providing an online application of meter which everyone feels it is actually the best way to resolve the problem experienced while trying to acquire a meter physically but the reverse is the case as the form has a part required to be filled by a licensed Electrician.
The question is, how do Nigerians get licensed Electrician? Why cant Nigerians be allowed to fill this form, submit, leaving the licensed electrician part for the distribution companies to sort out since we do not know how to get one? Is this not a way of starting corruption
since that we have to look for a licensed electrician who would then look at what we worth before charging us? This is another delay in meter acquisition in Nigeria.