On-phone chat with Principal Manager, Public Affairs, Eko Distribution Zone of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in Lagos, Mr. Godwin Idemudia conducted by Ayo Onikoyi
What does it really take to get a pre-paid meter?
For prepaid meter, as at June of 2012 the Federal Governmen stopped it that we should not be collecting money to distribute prepaid meters any more but before June we used to charge money for distribution of prepaid meters. We used to charge N25,000 for single phase while 3-phase meter was going for N55,000 but that was the practice in the past. What we used to do then was we used the money collected from the consumer to procure the meter and had it delivered to the consumer but as from June because of MITO we don't collect money from our consumer again.
What happens now is that if you want a prepaid meter you applied, stating your address and other details then we come to inspect the property, essentially the load to know what you need and we start processing for procurement of the meter. As soon as we have the meter we deploy.
But we have heard reports that when you apply you are asked to accompany your application with certain sum of money. There is a particular case where an applicant was asked to pay N10,000
Excuse me, what zone is that if I may ask?
it is in Lagos state here
Please where exactly is that in Lagos? Because when you say in Lagos state we have different zones in Lagos state.
So let me quickly let you know how Lagos is run. In Lagos, we have two distribution companies; namely, Ikeja and Eko Distribution Companies. Under Ikeja we have Ikorodu, Ipaja, Alimosho, Oshodi, Shomolu and the rest. Under Eko, we have Badagry, Festac, Ijora, Lekki, Victoria Island, Mushin, Ebute Metta and even up to Surulere. So the person you are talking about, it depends under which distribution zone he is but under my zone, Eko Distribution Zone, nobody will ask you for any amount of money. If there is any case of that nature please let me know immediately.
What about the access charge they charge monthly, is that official?
Yes. It is legal. Every consumer running a prepaid meter is expected to pay N500 monthly for using power. It is by law made mandatory by NERC.
Now the issue of 'crazy bill' some consumers have complained being charged differently and disparagingly higher from month to month after even having consumed relatively the same amount of energy. Some months they pay N3,000, N4,000 and some up to N15,000. Why is this?
See, people complain of this situation without really understanding the power supply situation and the power usage situation. What must have happened is that the time you were given a relatively low bill it could have been at that time the power supply to the area was rather low and subsequently the consumption was low thus the bill and the reverse happens when power supply to that area increases. See, it is simple, with increase in supply all your appliances tend to be in use and of course you should expect a bill higher than when supply was low. It is not possible you get a bill that does not reflect the amount of power used in that period. The phenomenon of "crazy bill' does not exist any more. At least I can speak for my Zone, that nothing of such exists any more.
But there is a general idea that before PHCN sends out their bills they have a target with which they work out how much they charge each consumer, regardless of consumption.
Please, please, if you look at my own distribution zone, Eko Distribution Company, we have gone past that level. When we set target we do not set target for the customers we set target based on power allocation to each district and for the customer, the customer get bills relating to amount of power used. In Eko now, a lot of our customers are on prepaid system and we are still giving out. And if we found that your meter is faulty and the fault did not arise from tampering or any fault of the customer we come and replace immediately, without the customer paying a dime. Bills are paid on load, electricity given to you. At the beginning of every month we give electricity out, you know we buy electricity too from the transmission and transmission buys from generation. That is how it works. So the question of asking people to pay for electricity not consumed does not arise. It is just not possible. Electricity paid for is based on total unit of electricity consumed. Please if you have any case of this don't hesitate to come to my office to report. Our office is opened to complaints from members of the public. From time to time we advertise numbers people can call to make all sorts of complaints. If there's anybody trying to exhort money from you, please play along and make sure you get his name and numbers and get back to us and see what happens.
My argument is this and it stems from people's reports that your people,PHCN, don't read meters any more. I mean for people using the old meters. If your people don't read meters any more how then are they able to make sure each consumer gets the exact bill of exact power used during the month?
We have talked to our marketers times without number to make sure they cover the areas assigned to them and you, as a consumer, should know the marketer assigned to your area and you would be in a better position to know whether the marketer is working or not. So if a marketer does not show up to read your meter you make complaint at the nearest office.
The numbers of PROs in various districts are published in the papers from time to time for members of the public to report activities of our people. For instance on November 21st we are having our Customers Parliament, we invite everybody, that is when we talk with customers, journalists and other members of the public.