The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has drafted 25 people from various fields relating to electricity engineering, manufacturing and consumer protection advocacy to monitor the reliability of electricity supply in five distribution zones within the country.
According to NERC, the 25 professionals drawn from the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and select Nigeria-based non-governmental organisations would have the mandate to entertain and scrutinise disputes between electricity consumers and any successor Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) distribution companies.
While inaugurating these experts for its power consumers' forum in five distribution zones of Abuja, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Kano, NERC stated that the forums were charged with responsibilities akin to an appellate court and would handle complaints on energy supply and consumption emanating from the distribution companies.
It reiterated that consumer satisfaction remained the bedrock of the Nigerian electricity reform exercise, adding that Article 3 of the Customer Complaints Handling: Standard and Procedures which it developed in line with its mandate provides for the establishment of Customer Complaints Units (CCUs) across the discos.
Chairman of NERC, Dr. Sam Amadi, stated in his remarks that CCUs were dispute resolution platform set up by electricity distribution licensees (distribution companies) and that every disco was mandated to establish a CCU within its premises.
Amadi explained that the CCUs were responsible for receiving and resolving customer complaints alongside the distribution companies before it eventually gets to NERC on the long run.
He noted that the commission shall only entertain further appeals from consumers who felt dissatisfied with the judgment of the forum after it had exhausted available avenues, adding that such discontent consumer can as well approach conventional courts in the case of further dissatisfaction.
"The idea is simply that in as much as we focus on efficiency in the industry, the ultimate focus and beneficiary of our mandate is the customer. It is the customer that we are here to protect and serve as the regulator that is why we have designed a process to take care of the customer with regard to dispute settlement.
The forum is designed like an appeal court with special judicial functions as exercised by NERC and members of the forum by extension are NERC, the regulator because they are take up such similar functions of monitoring activities in their distribution zones; that is why the swearing in involves oath taking to underline the seriousness of the task before you," Amadi said.
He further disclosed that the mechanism had got three tiers of operation; the responsibility of the service provider to the customer, consumers dispute report to the forum and the forum's subsequent entertainment of such complaints and dispute.
So far, NERC has set the CCUs of Kaduna, Ikeja and Eko distribution companies in motion but with the Eko and Ikeja zones now in full operation.