- Estimated Billing: Consumers Vow to Resist Disconnection by Discos
As the House of Representatives perfects the bill to criminalise estimated billing by electricity distribution companies, power consumers have vowed to resist attempts by the Discos to massively disconnect those of them who receive estimated bills.
Last month, the power distributors had threatened that they would embark on a nationwide disconnection of customers on estimated electricity bills if the House of Representatives passed the bill that seeks to criminalise estimated billing.
However, the lawmakers declared that there was no going back on the bill despite threats by the Discos.
The bill, which seeks to amend the Electricity Power Sector Reforms Act, 2005, has successfully passed second reading and the public hearing stage.
It seeks to outlaw estimated billing and prescribes penalties for Discos that fail to supply prepaid meters to their customers within 30 days of applying to be connected to power.
The bill, sponsored by the Leader of the House, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, prescribes penalties ranging from a fine of N500,000 to N1m or a prison term of six months for offenders.
“All electricity charges or billings to the premises of every consumer shall be based strictly on pre-paid metering and no consumer shall be made to pay any bill without a pre-paid meter first being installed on the premises of the consumer,” the bill reads in part.
Power distributors, as well as the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had argued that implementing the bill would lead to widespread disconnection of electricity consumers by the Discos, particularly those on estimated billing.
This, however, has not gone down well with power users, who insist that it is the responsibility of the Discos to provide meters and argue that the electricity distributors knew and accepted this obligation before they purchased the power assets five years ago.
The President, Electricity Consumers Association of Nigeria, Chijioke James, argued that the Discos had no right to threaten customers on estimated billing, whether the proposed bill by the National Assembly was passed or not.
James, who is a lawyer, declared that any attempt to embark on massive disconnection of power consumers would be resisted.
He said, “Why will they threaten to disconnect those on estimated billing when it is the responsibility of the distribution companies to provide meters? How long will it take them to make the meters available after acquiring the power assets about five years ago when the power sector was unbundled?
“Did they not conduct feasibility studies to know the number of unmetered customers in their respective franchise areas? So, how long will it take them to get these meters despite getting support from international financial institutions? The customers ought to be metered. You cannot disconnect anybody without providing meters for them.
“The only basis for disconnecting a customer is when you provide him with a meter and probably the consumer refuses to pay his bills. In that case, you can disconnect. Otherwise, you shouldn’t dare to touch any customer’s line who is on estimated billing.”
James also stated that currently, most Discos had a backlog of customers, who had paid for meters, which originally was not their responsibility, going by the EPSR Act.
“But consumers take it upon themselves to pay for the meters and you (Discos) still tell them you can’t provide meters and that you will disconnect them if the law compelling you to do what you ought to do is passed. We will resist that,” he declared.
ECAN urged the Federal Government to compel the power distributors to meter electricity consumers, adding that the bill seeking to criminalise estimated billing would promote transparency in the sector when implemented.
James said, “As far as we are concerned, the estimated billing system is not proper because people prefer to pay for what they use. From the angle of the law, the rule is that if you are distributing power, you must provide meters. So, by doing estimation, you are allowing room for something that is not proper. We should insist that things are done properly.
“So, the Discos must be compelled to install meters. This is why we believe that the bill that seeks to compel the Discos to meter all customers is in the interest of transparency in the electricity distribution sector. This transparency is both for the Discos and for the customers, who patronise the services of the power distributors.”
Also, the President, Nigeria Electricity Consumers Advocacy Network, Tomi Akingbogun, argued that power distributors had no right to embark on a mass disconnection of consumers on estimated billing.
According to him, if the Discos insist on disconnecting consumers, the power firms will be challenged in court by customers.
Akingbogun said, “They (Discos) have no right to massively disconnect those on estimated billing. The law is there and I don’t think NERC (Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission) will allow them to do such a thing. They have no right to do mass disconnection because of a law being passed by the National Assembly. That will be total irresponsibility on their part.
“Before you can disconnect a customer, you must first prove that the customer has refused to comply with the laws regulating the sector, maybe he is not paying his bills despite all necessary warnings and the number of days given to him as grace.
“If they carry out mass disconnection of customers on estimated billing, what will happen to those who are not owing? Will they disconnect them alongside those who owe just because they are on estimated billing? I don’t think that threat can be possible. However, it will be resisted legally if they insist on pushing it.”
On why power distributors had yet to meter all their customers, the Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, Sunday Oduntan, admitted that it was the duty of the Discos to provide meters, but noted that the firms did not get the exact metering gap in the sector when they took over the power assets.
He said, “One thing you must understand is that we absolutely do not take our customers for granted. Indeed, comprehensive metering is the desired objective of power distribution companies and there is no greater champion of this than the Discos.
“When investors in the distribution companies came along, there was no true estimate of the metering gap. Indeed, the Discos, under their performance agreements, were only obligated to meter 1.7 million customers over a five-year period. The estimate of the metering gap at that time was significantly less than the currently identified four million gap.”
Oduntan, who is also a lawyer, explained that the Discos opposed the bill to criminalise estimated billing because the effects of the proposed law would be highly counter-productive to the sector, aside from the mass disconnection that would follow if it was passed and implemented.
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Nigeria’s Presidential CNG Initiative Allocates N100bn for CNG Buses and EV Adoption
The Presidential Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Initiative has allocated N100 billion to expedite the deployment of CNG buses nationwide, according to a statement released on Wednesday.
The initiative, designed to catalyze an Auto-gas and Electric Vehicle (EV) revolution in mass transit and transportation, aims to enhance sustainability and cost-effectiveness.
The statement revealed that the fund would be instrumental in supporting the adoption of auto-gas and electric vehicles, signaling a commitment to a more sustainable and economical future in the transportation sector.
The Presidential CNG Initiative plans to leverage over 11,500 CNG and electric-fueled vehicles, along with the deployment of 55,000 conversion kits.
This strategic approach is intended to reduce transportation costs for Nigerians and mitigate the challenges posed by the rising cost of living.
Under the Renewed Hope Agenda, the Presidential CNG Initiative is dedicated to realizing the President’s vision, guided by its steering committee led by FIRS Chairman Zacch Adedeji.
The statement highlighted recent achievements, including strategic technical partnerships and the ongoing commissioning of CNG Conversion centers in key states such as Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Ogun, and Rivers.
Several more centers are slated for commissioning in the coming weeks, reflecting the initiative’s momentum and commitment to achieving its objectives.
Nigeria’s Power Transformation: 53 Projects Worth N122bn on Track for May 2024 Completion
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and power distribution companies, is set to complete 53 power projects by May next year.
Valued at N122 billion, these projects aim to add over 1,000 megawatts to TCN’s wheeling capacity.
During a recent tour of three ongoing projects in Lagos, TCN’s Programme Coordinator, Mathew Ajibade, assured that the projects were not abandoned, refuting speculations.
He confirmed that work is progressing smoothly and is expected to be completed by May 2024, as initially planned.
Assistant Director/Head of Infrastructure Finance Office at the CBN, Tumba Tijani, highlighted the CBN’s support for the power sector, revealing that the bank released a loan at a 9% interest rate in August last year for the projects.
The funding, part of the Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility-3, amounts to N122,289,344 and aims to address transmission/distribution bottlenecks, enhance supply to end-users, and unlock unutilized generation capacity.
Tijani disclosed that N85.43 billion has been disbursed into the Advance Payment Guarantee account of the 53 contractors responsible for executing the projects.
The comprehensive project list includes the delivery of power transformers, re-conductoring existing transmission lines, upgrading existing substations, and constructing 33KV line bays.
The initiative reflects a concerted effort to enhance Nigeria’s power infrastructure and meet growing energy demands.
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