The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has reversed itself on earlier policy cancelling payment for electricity meters by customers.
Following the commencement of the Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO) 2 in June 2012, the commission had announced that electricity consumers would no longer pay for pre-paid meters as the MYTO 2 was structured to allow for adequate funding of the sector, including the provision of meters to customers.
Meters, it said, were now the property of the distribution companies (Discos) who now have the responsibility to install them for customers as the cost had been factored in the MYTO 2 tariff.
But speaking at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, NERC chairman, Dr. Sam Amadi, admitted that the agency faces a challenge with the planned rapid deployment of meters nationwide, saying that, after seven months, "records show that there are an unacceptable number of customers who are without meters. Compounding the issue is the menace of unrealistic estimated bills."
The commission had given 18 timeframes for the various Discos to deploy pre-paid meters to electricity consumers nationwide in a bid to ensure that consumers paid only for what they consumed as against the practice of arbitrary estimated billing.
To this end, Amadi said alternative ways, including customers paying for meters to ensure quicker deployment, had now been decided on by the commission, a departure from its earlier policy.
He said customers can now pay for meters and get electricity credit covering the cost in the form of not paying for monthly fixed charge until the meter cost is defrayed to avoid "unrealistic estimated bills."
According to him, reports from the field showed that "there is significant abuse of estimated billing methodology," a situation which prompted the commission to adopt this alternative.
He noted that the slow deployment of meters was as a result of negotiation between government and PHCN workers, which had increased operational cost of the Discos in terms of increase in workers' salary and regularisation of casual staff, among others, thereby making it difficult to utilise revenue from tariff to deploy meters.
NERC, he said, has also resolved that meters must be installed for customers within 45 days of payment, and that punitive action will be taken against the Disco for failing to do so.
To ensure standardisation and efficiency in line with the metering code, Amadi said a public notice would soon be issued for meter vendors to apply for certification after which NERC would write a 'no objection' to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to fast-track a 'no objection' certification for pre-qualified vendors from whom the Discos could purchase meters.
He also said customers who paid for meters prior to MYTO 2 would be supplied meters within 45 days of a notice to be served the Discos by NERC, adding, however, that these initiatives did not negate all other plans for meter deployment which the commission outlined following the commencement of MYTO 2.