Vanguard (Lagos)

9 November 2012

Nigeria: Should Privatisation of PHCN Stop Installation of Pre-Paid Meters?

Confusion and uncertainty surrounds the installation of the pre-paid meters introduced some time back by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

Amidst outcry over high bills, electricity consumers now demand for the pre -paid meters so as to be able to control and determine their energy consumption rate.

Mr. Obinna Ike who occupies a three bedroom flat on Osho Drive, Olodi Apapa, Ajegunle area of Lagos says he lives alone in his apartment and travelled out of Lagos on a business trip where he spent two months.

He said that while he was away, there was no power consumption in his apartment because he switched off every light including refrigerators.

Yet he came back to meet a huge bill of N22,315.00 awaiting him. Mr. Ike is angered that he could not obtain the pre-paid meter because he was told PHCN has suspended the issuance of pre-paid meters to consumers.

A visit to PHCN area office Maza Maza showed that the office is inundated with complaints of overbilling.

Many of the complainants accuse the Power Holding Company of Nigeria of arbitrary and unrealistic billing even when their houses had been without light for a long time. They accused the PHCN of not picking the meter readings before billing consumers

An official at the Ajegunle Area office of the company who chose not to be mentioned confirmed that the PHCN has stopped issuing the pre-paid meters which consumers formerly obtained on purchase of N25,000.00 bank draft . He says the meter is to be installed free on application.

The Apapa district office of PHCN also would not want to confirm the suspension of the installation of pre-paid meters to the public or applicants.

However an official of the company's marketing department says an applicant for the meter only need to complete an application form and submit it with any credible form of identity. He said that the application is then forwarded to the head office but that it takes time to obtain approval.

Investigation however showed that PHCN stopped installation of the pre-paid meters because of the anticipated privatization of the company and to clear the backlog of earlier applications.

However employing the Nigerian factor it takes an unofficial payment of some amount of money to obtain the meter.

As an official of the company puts it, "the government had to put a stop to issuance of pre-paid meters so that the buyers of the company would not inherit the problems or debts, arising from applicants who had already paid the application fee to PHCN but yet to have their meters installed".

It will be recalled that the sale of Power Holding Company of Nigeria has been a subject of controversy between the Federal Government and the workers of PHCN which had resulted in several strike actions by the workers.

Last week the Federal Government announced the preferred bidders for PHCN and its subsidiary companies.

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