Surulere Federal lawmaker and Leader of the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has warned the electricity distribution companies (Discos) to desist from its planned mass disconnection of electricity, saying the companies risk losing their license.
Recall that in the aftermath of the public hearing on estimated billing on June 5, 2018, the discos had threatened to embark on mass electricity disconnection across the country.
The House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the excessive electricity billings had condemned the electricity discos and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) over their unlawful practices in billing customers excessively even without power supply, dismissing them as failures and fraudsters.
The discos had argued for reasons for the estimated billing system saying many other countries practice estimated billing and Nigeria could not be exception, a claim which Hon. Gbajabiamila refuted as baseless and unconvincing. In addition, the discos lamented the high cost of metering, arguing that the present tariff is not cost reflective and that the capital layout for meters is too high.
The lawmaker however stressed that the discos don’t have to pay for the meters saying that customers should be allowed direct purchase from manufacturers or retailers. “Beyond the Meter Asset Provider initiative, customers should be allowed direct purchase from manufacturers or retailers, pretty much same way you are allowed to buy a cellphone of your choice and you go to your service provider to provide you with a sim card and line. It’s that simple. All the government needs to do is certify the meter through some quality assurance mechanism,” he said.
He added that: “This way the Discos are absolved of cost of providing meters. In the first place they should never have been allowed to get involved with meter provision as it presents a potential conflict of interest in a country like ours but hindsight is 20-20. It’s like giving a person who deals in diesel or sells generators a Disco license. Of course it would be in his best interest to make sure there is no supply of electricity. As the Minister of Power himself admitted at the Public Hearing, supply of meters is not the core business of Discos.
“Many Nigerians are ready to pay for meters and many have done so without the Discos delivering. Indeed from investigative reports those with meters have a lower supply of electricity than those without perhaps because it is more profitable to estimate bills. I am surprised in a recent interview a spokesman to one of the Discos put the cost of a meter at 73,000 Naira. This appears stranger than fiction as the average cost of a meter is meant to be about 20,000 Naira. This cost itself will invariably go down. It is a function of the economic principle of demand and supply. Local manufacturers of meters, of which there are many, need to be encouraged.”
Commenting on estimated billings, the lawmaker representing Surulere Constituency I, Lagos Mainland, said; “Let me make this clear, the countries referred to are not Nigeria where the government is still trying to fight corruption.
“In those countries, estimation is the exception and not the norm/rule. The laws in those countries mostly permit estimated billing where for some reason e.g. inclement weather, difficulty in accessing the meter, presence of ferocious dogs, broken meters etc., the meter cannot be read. It is false equivalency to compare those to Nigeria where estimated billing is the standard practice and not the exception. Which brings me to the question what does it mean to “estimate”. An estimate is a calculated guesswork of what a bill should be. It is normally based in those countries on your last month or last two months reading and its almost often exact to a science.”