The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Monday reminded electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) that despite government's intervention to help bridge the metering gap in the country, the responsibility to supply meters to electricity consumers remained their contractual obligation.
On Saturday, the Executive Director, Research & Advocacy, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), Sunday Oduntan, said the "responsibility to supply meters to electricity consumers was no more the business of the DISCOs.'
Mr Oduntan, who featured on "Sunrise", a Channels TV Weekend programme, said consumers should henceforth hold NERC and the Ministry of Power responsible.
"From now on, metering of consumers is no more our (DISCOs) business, according to the Federal Minister of Power. Metering is now government business. They call it MAP regulation.
"When talking about metering, stop asking Mr Oduntan (DISCOs). Direct your questions to NERC and Ministry of Power. They are now in charge of metering. Nigerians should understand that metering is no more our primary business," Mr Oduntan said.
He said the decision by DISCOs to hands off metering followed alleged policy summersaults by government, whom he accused of reneging on all agreement signed with investors on inception in November 2013.
Mr Oduntan said on handing over the power plants in 2013, government asked the DISCOs to provide only 1.7 million meters to customers, only to find out later that the figure was as high as 4.1 million.
Despite the huge 2.4 million gap, he said the DISCOs have managed to supply over 88 per cent of the volume of meters to consumers.
DISCOs Must Fulfill Contract
However, at the monthly power sector meeting with operators in Niger State on Monday, the minister, who reviewed recent policy guidelines and directives he issued to operators, provided updates on their impact in the power sector.
On the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) policy, the minister said the policy introduced last March was introduced to help address the huge meter supply gap.
He said the policy was also to relieve the DISCOs of the financial burden of supplying meters to consumers, by allowing the entrepreneurs to take up meter supplying as a business and diversify the sources of meter supply.
The new MAP regulation provides for third-party financing of meter production and supply, under a permit issued by the NERC, with a 10-year period to pay back the cost.
Apart from raising finance from banks to enlist in the MAP scheme, Mr Fashola said several entrepreneurs and some DISCOs have signed up to the government-supported N37 billion funding for the initiative.
Despite government's intervention as part of its role to ensure effectiveness, the minister said: "it (MAP scheme) does not relieve the DISCOs of their contractual obligation to provide meters. On the contrary, it seeks to help them perform their contract."
On Monday when PREMIUM TIMES called NERC to seek its reaction to the controversy, its spokesperson, Usman Arabi, said the commission was not obliged to join issues with non-licensees.
"As a policy, NERC does not comment on issues raised by those not our licensees. Neither ANED nor Mr Oduntan is our licensee. NERC is yet to receive any formal complaint by any of the DISCOs about any of the allegations they are talking about," Mr Arabi said.
On other issues, the minister told the meeting the most pressing challenge of the power sector remained at the distribution end, particularly gas supply, electricity generation and transmission. He put unused energy at about 2,000 megawatts (MWs).
On the N701 billion Payment Assurance Guarantee introduced in 2017 to encourage investors in electricity generation to deliver on their mandate, the minister said recovery of payments by GENCOs has increased from 20 to 80 per cent since it began.
He said power supply capacity has improved from 4,000MWs to 7,000MWs.
He stressed the need for GENCOs to ensure transparency in their invoicing for their output, while he noted the price of gas for payment under the scheme must be harmonised where there are differential prices from different gas suppliers.
On the eligible customer policy introduced in May 2017, the minister said it was meant to improve electricity distribution and to facilitate better power supply to consumers who take up to 2MWs and above.
Already, he said, about five industrial customers are taking their power directly from a GENCO, while 26 industrial customers who are equally seeking to benefit from the policy.
On the policy to energise educational institutions and markets, Mr Fashola said there was progress with the proposal to use abandoned six small hydro dams in some federal-owned universities and markets.
Under the proposal, about 15 markets would be covered, with Ariaria, Sabon Gari and Sura markets in Aba, Kano and Lagos as pilots.
The minster said about 37,000 shops in Ariaria; 13,000 in Sabon Gari, and 1,000 in Sura, representing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have already benefited from the policy.