People & Money

NERC Colluding with Power Firms on Estimated Billing, Says Rights NGO

The management of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) on Thursday charged electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) to deploy modern technologies and equipment that would guarantee network stability in order to improve the quality of electricity supply to the teeming consumers.

The NERC Chairman, Professor James Momoh, who gave the advice during a facility tour of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) in Abuja, told the management of the company to concentrate more on the deployment of emerging technology in order to ensure customer satisfaction.

Momoh also challenged critical stakeholders in the power sector, particularly of the DISCOs and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to end the blame game, which according to him has impacted the sector negatively. He added that the infighting had led NERC to invite DISCOs and TCN for a whole week discussion.

The NERC boss, while responding to a presentation by the Managing Director of AEDC, Engr. Ernest Mupwaya, said, “I have seen everything, one, what I want to say is sustainability, that what he has started must be sustained. We cannot afford to solve old problems with old technologies and expect change. Or new problems with old technologies and expect change.  

“The challenge of the industry if you ask is both technical and commercial. If you get the technique right, you concentrate on the commercial, if you get the commercial right, you get the technology right. So, when you get all of them right, you have an efficient, reliable company.

Also Read: Power: Complaints Received by DisCos Rose by 15 percent in Q1 2020

“And that is the picture he has painted. MD, what you have said to us, we only wanted to study our project on interfaces; but we remind you of what else is going on. What else is going, my colleague has the right to know.

“But I am using this thing to push power through the interface with the TCN and DISCOs. Because for years I have seen as one of your staff here, there was this blame game. This blame game of it is my fault, it is your fault, switch your feeder, I switch my feeder, take your transformers, I will take care of my transformer; your relay is not working. This is an indirect infighting in the sector. And everybody was casting blames.”

Momoh added that in order to address the squabble, “the NERC Commission under my Chairmanship, said you are the Chairman, run this. So they selected some engineers to work with me and that is how we invited the DISCOs and TCN for a whole week discussion.”

CRC denounces NERC over estimated billings

Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Council (CRC) has accused NERC of conniving with the distribution companies to extort electricity consumers through outrageous estimated billings. It said NERC has failed in its mandate by allowing DISCOs to issue high and unregulated estimated bills to Nigerians, adding that the development has resulted in the deliberate refusal to provide prepaid meters to consumers.

CRC Chairman Agbubi Ejovwoke, who spoke in a statement, pointed out that despite a series of complaints launched to the commission by electricity consumers, it has failed to take a firm stand on the issue. He urged the Federal Government to scrap NERC over its continuous failure to execute its core mandate.

According to him, “We want the Federal Government to scrap NERC because the commission as it is today has lost focus and is just there receiving a huge budgetary allocation for doing nothing.

Also Read: Nigeria to Invest N198bn on Power Generation in 2021

“Early this year, I think February, after a series of complaints and protests, carried out against the injustice done to consumers by the DISCOs, especially BEDC, NERC came up to say they have placed a limit on what DISCOs are to charge unmetered customers.

“They put the maximum that any DISCO can invoice a residential customer at 78kWhr x N24/ kWhr = N1,872 per month yet you see these DISCOs issuing bills as high as N28,000 for a single customer.

“The annoying thing is that when you launch a complaint to NERC through their website, they only acknowledge through their automatic acknowledgment programme but never treat them.

“These DISCOs are just having a free day feeding on the sweat of innocent Nigerians by making them pay for what they never consumed and the body that is supposed to checkmate their activities is just there collecting budgetary allocation year in year out without doing anything.

“They told us that by 2017 all customers would have been metered, they shifted it to 2018, then the first quarter of 2019, now they are saying it is 2023. Believe me, with this NERC in place, we will not get prepaid meters by 2050.

IN CONTEXT

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) is a regulatory body set up in October 2007 and has the authority to regulate the power supply industry in the country via licensing operators, setting customer rights and obligations, as well as cost-reflective industry tariffs.

In September, the NERC mandated power distribution companies (Discos) to meter customers not more than ten days after making payment and noted that not abiding by the directive violates its regulation.

Prior to that, the commission had announced that customers would no longer pay for metres fully at purchase but would do so through periodic tariff costs i.e. small additions to what they pay as they consume power.

“The most painful of all is our National Assembly that has been cajoled into this quagmire of fraud. They introduced a bill to stop the fraud and we became hopeful but never knew it was their own way of trying to get their share of the loot. The bill has suddenly disappeared.

“It is high time our leaders started doing what is right for the country to move forward.”

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