Port Harcourt and Lagos — Civil society groups in Rivers State have urged the National Assembly to be vigilant against a plot to scuttle the bill seeking to criminalise estimated billing by electricity distribution companies.A human rights lawyer, Mr. Toluwani Adebiyi, said some members of the National Assembly perceived to be political protégées of powerful Nigerians with stakes in the distribution companies (Discos) had been assigned to kill the bill.He made the allegation during a citizens and stakeholders meeting on the lingering electricity crisis and complaints of irregularities against the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED).
The event was organised by Rivers Civil Society Organisation in Port Harcourt yesterday.Adebiyi told the audience that the reason the Discos across the country refused to provide pre-paid meters to Nigerians in accordance with the law was because they were making much more unearned revenue from estimated billing than through pre-paid meters.He argued that estimated billing was not only illegal, but a sheer breach of the memorandum reached with the Federal Government that within 18 months of issuance of operational licence to the distribution firms, every Nigerian customer would be metered.
The lawyer likened the continuous use of estimated billing by the various Discos as electricity terrorism. He noted that while the companies are legitimately empowered to make profit from their businesses, it is morally outrageous for them to engage in exploitation of Nigerians who are struggling daily to make ends meet.Former president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) Ledum Mitee, who lamented that "myself and other residents of the state" had been subjected to paying for darkness rather than electricity, urged Nigerians to challenge the continuous exploitation by the Discos.
Mitee observed that though statutorily, the consumers are guaranteed some rights, these rights, according to him, are not self enforcing. He urged citizens who are issued unwarranted estimated billing to contest them through the various channels which the laws avail them."The law says it is not the duty of consumers to buy poles, meters and transformers. Knowing your rights is one thing, securing the rights is another thing. Rights are not self-enforcing."
Just because the rights are declared in the statute books does not mean the citizens will enjoy them. We need to struggle and fight for those rights," he said, The PHED acknowledged that though estimated billing might be wrong, it was not unlawful.The General Manager, Customer Service, Mr. Godwin Orovwiroro, explained that Discos were grappling with challenges associated with the power sector in the country.He said the regulating law which pegged the Discos investment at N3.5 billion had continued to make it impossible for the companies to procure and distribute prepaid meters to customers.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has embarked on the enforcement of the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) policy.Already, NERC has granted Mojec International Limited, an indigenous prepaid meter manufacturing company, an approval of 'No Objection' licence or certificate under the new metering policy.MAP, which became effective on April 3, 2018, is expected to speed up closure of the metering gap and encourage the development of independent and competitive meter services in the electricity industry.
The electricity distribution companies, in line with their licensing terms and conditions, have been obliged to achieve their metering targets as set by the commission under the new regulation.The Head, Media Unit of NERC, Mrs. Vivian Mbonu, said that additional eight companies had been granted 'No Objection' licence to participate in the procurement process for meter in the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).
"These new additions bring to 30 the total number of companies approved by the commission to participate in meter procurement and bid process with the electricity distribution companies of their choice."Successful bidder from procurement process shall obtain meter asset provider permit from the commission after entering into metering service agreement with electricity distribution companies.
"Services to be provided by Meter Asset Providers may among others include financing, procurement, installation, repair and replacement of electricity meters according to the MAP Regulations 2018."