• DISCOS deny claims, give reasons
To address the issue of outrageous billing that has continued to plague the electricity distribution sub-sector, and the numerous complaints by consumers, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), had repealed estimated billing methodology regulation as the basis for computing the consumption of unmetered consumers.
It also issued a deadline of April 30, 2020 for proper identification and metering of high-energy users.
However, consumers are in doubt as to whether the latest proposed tariff increase had not yet taken place, alleging that the power supplied is not commensurate with the bills received every month.
Speaking with The Guardian, consumers of the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC), and Eko Distribution Company (EKEDC), have lamented outrageous bills, irregular power supply, and perilous power infrastructure, among others.
Residents of Ojodu Berger, under IKEDC complained that the recent exorbitant bills are not commensurate with the frequency of power supplied.
Specifically, Sodiq Rammon, said from N13,000 in December 2019, his electricity bill rose to N18,000 in January, N22,000 in March, and N32,000 in April.
He said: “In April 2020, the Ikeja Distribution Company (IKEDC) gave us an estimated bill of N32,000. That was when there was a lockdown. We cried and wailed, the following month (May) they brought N35,000 and yet more cries and wailing. This month, the bill for June consumption rose to N48,000. This is what these Discos are doing to us. Is it not better they disconnect our light permanently? I thought they said the tariff increase has been put on hold?
“I have never believed in the tariff, because whether there is tariff increase or not, as long as you are on estimated billing without prepaid meter, they would bring to you outrageous bills monthly when there’s absolutely no commensurate supply.”
He, however, admitted that electricity supply was steady in April, and residents had power for 15 hours daily but the supply has dropped since May.
“To be fair to IKEDC, the supply in April was stable. I could say without mincing words that we enjoyed electricity supply for 15 hours daily, but supply has dropped drastically since that April. We certainly enjoyed less in May, and also less in June. How come the bill instead of reducing has continued to increase albeit criminally and astronomically? The earlier we stopped this mindless extortion, the better.”
Also, a resident of Magodo, Mrs. Florence decried the treatment meted on the residents by IKEDC.
According to her, residents contributed money to purchase poles, cables, and meters, and also replaced the transformer but the distribution company would later claim ownership.
“Then the electricity distribution companies will, without taking the meter reading, send outrageous estimated bills to you for power never consumed. And if you dare raise a question against this action, they will come and remove the cable you bought with your money as their property.
“You then will be charged what they call a ‘reconnection fee’ to get your cable fixed back. And you will have to bribe their personnel to replace a melted fuse or you will remain perpetually in darkness and still pay the bill at the end of the month.
“The most heinous part of their corporate crimes against the people is the revenue target they set for their personnel every month.”
Similarly, Mr. Nwanne who resides at Ijesha area of Lagos, under the EKEDC, noted that the voltage power line transferring power from a distribution substation to the distribution transformers is weak and needs urgent attention.
According to him, the feeder, which is located at Cele Bus stop, oftentimes develops faults, thereby halting power supply for days.
“In a month, it could be faulty four times; and most times, it takes five days to fix it. We suspect that the feeder is overloaded and the reason is not farfetched. Lately, the area is witnessing urban renewal and this has caused an upsurge in population. Many of the bungalows in the axis were sold, and the new owners are building duplexes and storey buildings. Meanwhile, in some of the bungalows, the owners don’t even have televisions and they consume minimal electricity, but with the new occupants of the duplexes and storey buildings, there is a lot of electricity consumption. So, the feeder is overloaded and weak.”
Also, Kehinde Soaga, a resident at Ijaniki, in Lagos, under the Eko DisCo, lamented that his house, a three-bedroom bungalow, is perpetually billed on estimation.
He alleged that officials of the DisCo often extorted money from the occupants, saying: “The issue has been lingering, as they have continuously extorted money from my family. I call on the Federal Government to stop this nightmare called DISCOs in Nigeria. They are not only incompetent; they do not have the capacity to effectively provide electricity to Nigerians; it is very evident. The government should allow states and local governments to oversee and manage power for their people.”
However, in a chat with The Guardian, spokesman for Ikeja Electric, Felix Ofolue, insisted that the DisCo has improved on electricity supply across its network and provides an average of 16 hours.
He defended that the increase in supply comes at a cost, which translates into the increase in the bills.
He said: “Again because everyone has practically been restricted to their homes in the last three months, there is a proportional increase in consumption pattern across various households. It is not peculiar to unmetered customers; it also applies to customers with prepaid meters.
“As a responsible corporate organisation, we strongly discourage the act of giving bribes. To this extent, we constantly embark on awareness campaigns discouraging the act. We have further gone ahead to set up a whistle-blowing platform – email@example.com – where customers can report such illegal activities. A reputable audit firm manages this platform independently.”
“As a distribution company, we are the collecting agents for the rest of the value chain, and what we collect from customers is shared according to a defined formula to the rest of the value chain. So what it simply means is that we purchase the power, we distribute, and we need to remit funds back to the suppliers of this power. If this is what customers refer to as a target, then to a large extent we are responsible for ensuring that we pay for the supply that we get from the national grid.
“The issue of the estimated bill is emotive, and we understand that much, that is why the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) scheme was introduced to bridge the metering gap, so we encourage all our customers who are unmetered to take advantage of the scheme to procure meters. This will greatly reduce cases of estimated bills.”
Likewise, his counterpart at EKEDC, Godwin Idemudia, urged Ijesha residents to lodge a report at its office to understand the feeder that needs attention.
He equally defended that “The energy supply since the beginning of the year has been on the increase on a monthly basis so that should reflect on the bills.”
He added that “The only sure way of ruling out estimation is by metering, and we are encouraging our customers to take advantage of MAP.”