Electricity users, Discos showdown looms as consumers blame NERC for supply fraud
Unless there is a prompt intervention, the ongoing squabbles between electricity users and Distribution Companies (Discos) over prepaid meters could derail socio-economic plans of government.
From the streets of Enugu, Onitsha, Benin and Lagos to the northern parts of the country, electricity users are insisting that Discos provide prepaid meters.
They put the blame on the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) that failed to call the Discos to order, although the regulator has provided guidelines for estimated billings, which are the real bone of contention.
Finding showed that the Discos are now hiding under the lack of possession of meters to continue the extortion of consumers by charging them to pay for electricity that was never supplied or consumed. In fact, the Discos have resorted to skewing the estimated billing methodology to defraud customers who are yet to have meters.
One of the crude methods of estimated billing, The equal allocation of bills to customers who are using the same feeder, without any regard to the nature of the premises occupied by each customer and the number of appliances or loads that consume electricity in each residence. While a bill of N25, 000 a month is slammed on a consumer in a two-bedroom flat, who hardly gets power supply for more than four hours in a week, another customer on estimated billing who also occupies a similar apartment pays less than N2, 500 for the same period.
It is even more pathetic where customers in a one-room apartment pay the same estimated bills with customers living in three-bedroom, four-bedroom apartments or even duplexes.
For example, a customer in Isolo area of Lagos, Eromosele Inegbonosun, who occupies a shop with two sewing machines, weaving machine and two electric bulbs was issued over a N30, 000 per month estimated bill. A copy of his bill, which was made available to The Guardian, showed that the customer had embarked on a monthly payment of N5,000 to avoid being disconnected pending when the issue would be resolved
There is an instance whereby a customer who consumes less than 40 units of electricity per month was over-estimated with an average of 480 units as a monthly bill. So the customer is compelled to pay for what is consumed for 13 months as one-month bill.
Apart from the over-estimation of bills, The Guardian learnt that many customers are neither metered nor on estimation, a sharp practice by the Discos field marketers who collect monthly payments from such customers and convert them to personal use.
NERC said that any unmetered customer who is disputing his bill has the right not to pay the controversial bill, but pay only the last undisputed bill as the one being contested goes through the dispute resolution process of the agency.
A NERC personnel who spoke with The Guardian on condition of anonymity, said that the commission would ensure that the Discos meter every customer under their network only after the expiration of timeline
“The Discos have timelines by which they are supposed to meter every customer, and until the expiration of the timeline, they cannot be penalised.”