The plan to meter over five million electricity customers in Nigeria who are allegedly being charged dubious estimated bills by the power distribution companies (DisCos) may be careening towards disaster under the new minister of power Engr. Sale Mamman, experts revealed.
The spiral downward in the hitherto noble plan birth by Babatunde Fashola when he was in charge of the power ministry turned awry may not be unconnected to 35 per cent hike in import levy on electricity meters and poor financial ability of meter asset providers to finance the purchase of new meters.
Recall that the Federal Government through the then Minister of Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, had in 2018 through the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) introduced the Meter Asset Providers regulation to new investors to finance mass metering plan which is expected to reduce incidences of estimated billing to the barest minimum in the country.
However, five months after the 108 meter asset providers began operation nationwide; the firms are yet to record meaningful progress as envisaged by enthusiastic Nigerians thereby questioning the effectiveness of the new Minister of Power, Sale Mamman.
With the snail pace of the programme, Nigerians who had believed they had won the battle against estimated billings were drawn aback as solving challenges relating to metering has resurfaced with the change of baton in the Power ministry.
Operators who had hailed the Federal government move on the metering process were also dead wrong as the Meter assets providers have failed to live up to expectations.
Experts also fingered the new Minister of Power, Sale Mamman's alleged negligence as the lead reason why DisCos are not enthusiastic about prepaid meters and are trying to frustrate the effort of making them available as estimated billings bring in more revenue for them. With the alleged negligence on the part of the Minister, industry watchers said, the programme may be heading for a crash under the new Minister.
Coordinator of Electricity Consumer Advocacy Network, Akeem Balogun, expressed doubts that MAP could provide meters to customers across the country, saying resolving the issue of estimated billing and closing the metering gap, in view of the number of people in need of the service, were doubtful.
He said NERC, in line with its regulation, allows customers to procure meters from a third party at their own expense, adding that it is not certain that everybody who applied for meters would get them because the Ministry of Power is not giving adequate supervision to the implementation of the MAP policy.
Chairman, Meter Electricity Manufacturing Company Limited, (MEMCOL), Mr. Kola Balogun, had argued that the introduction of new metering arrangement and the subsequent approval of some firms as meter asset providers could end the nightmares experienced by electricity consumers.
Reacting to the alleged failure on the part of the MAPs, the Executive Secretary, Electricity Meters Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (EMMAN), Mr. Muhideen Ibrahim, opined that the development may not be unconnected to scarcity of meters.
In a related development, the Managing Director, Mojec Asset Management Company (MAMC), Mrs. Mojisola Abdul, blamed the problems on logistics. The firm, a subsidiary of Mojec International Limited, is a meter asset provider. The company, alongside others, like Turbo Engineering and Mever Consulting, were believed to have been appointed by Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) to provide meters to customers under its jurisdiction.
"Two major problems that hinder supply of meters to customers are logistics and funding. Moving meters from one place to another, in the course of metering consumers, has been pretty difficult. Providing enough logistics for moving meters across the country is a big challenge, adding that changes in the prices of pre-paid meters were inevitable, if the meter asset providers were going to record any growth," She added.
Also, the Managing Director, New Hampshire Capital, Mr. Odion Wesley Omohfoman, while speaking to journalists during a meter senisitisation forum in Ikorodu, Lagos, said meter asset providers were experiencing difficulties in bringing customers into the metering net. New Hampshire Capital holds the franchise to provide meters to customers under Ikeja Electric. According to him, the customers needed to be educated on modalities for getting pre-paid meters.
However, many Nigerians were of the opinion that the DISCOs' preference for estimated billings removes any motivation to provide prepaid meters. Estimated billings allow the DISCOs to recover losses from areas where collections are poor hence it is a preferred alternative.
Having a prepaid meter means consumers only pay for energy used. It is like using airtime on a prepaid mobile line- you control what you use, and when you run out of credit you can understand why it is so.
The prepaid consumer is not cheated. The meter can also save energy and prevent wastage. Many believe that the reason prepaid meter is not in high supply is because of the elimination of "crazy bills".