Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



By M.A. Shoyombo

The Coalition for Affordable and Regular Electricity (CARE) – formed by Socialists and community activists – is opposed to any arrangement that will lead to increase in electricity tariff in order to accommodate the greedy interest of the power sector companies that have woefully failed in supplying affordable and uninterrupted electricity and that of Meter Providers Companies. CARE also condemns the widespread provocative crazy bills issued to electricity consumers.

On March 27, 2018, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) came out with a scheme known as Meter Asset Provider Regulations (MAPR) aimed at eliminating estimated billing within 3 years and starting from August 1, 2018. The Electricity Distribution Companies are expected to successfully engage Meter Asset Providers within 120 days (April 1 to July 30, 2018). This scheme is replacing the Credit Advance Payment for Metering implementation (CAPMI) that was set up by NERC in 2012 meant to bridge the metering gap. Customers under the CAPMI were expected to pay for the meter in advance while the meter cost will be deducted from tariff paid overtime at 12% interest per annum. CAPMI failed because the Electricity Distribution Companies prefer to issue estimated bills that are mostly outrageously and exploitatively higher than electricity consumed.

There are about 7 million customers that require metering but NERC and Distribution companies have failed due to profit motive of the power sector reform. Unfortunately, NERC has largely collaborated with the Distribution Companies in the perpetuation of widespread fraud in the name of billing. There is no nowhere in the world where means of measurement of tariff is arbitrarily one-sided but electricity pricing in Nigeria.

The cost of procuring and servicing meters (Return on Investment on Meter Assets) is already embedded in the current tariff plan and under the MAPR, the Electricity Distribution Companies will have to pay the Meter Providers from the tariff being paid by customers. This new arrangement is being viciously opposed by the Electricity Distribution Companies for their selfish interest and they are hell bent on frustrating it but will only accommodate it if there is going to be hike in electricity tariff that will bring in huge profitable returns despite poor power supply. CARE will mobilize against any form of hike in tariff that will further intensify the exploitation of customers and further pauperize the people.

For a number of factors, the Distribution Companies have intensified the issuance of outrageous (crazy) bills on wide scale never seen before in order to further shortchange electricity consumer when meters are finally issued, most of the piled up debt as a result of the long period of overbilling will be paid by consumers. Hence, most customers have complained of the March and April 2018 bills that are not only outrageous but provocatively exploitative.

This has provoked protest from many communities and consumers. Residents of Mosafejo area of Ajegunle, Lagos State who are mostly women have staged several mass protests against crazy billing and disconnection of their electricity. 90% of complaints at Distribution Companies offices by customers are linked to overbilling. The Distribution companies have practically stopped taking reading of meters (analog) because estimated billing attracts more returns.

Since Return on Investment on Meter Assets is embedded in the current tariff template imposed on the people on February 1, 2016 by NERC, what has happened to billions of Naira paid by millions of customers for the past 2 years and meters were not supplied nor serviced? Despite a bailout of over N200 billion to power companies, the power infrastructure is still dilapidated and electricity supply is still epileptic. It is often the case that communities are periodically placed in darkness for days and yet bills issued are outrageous. For instance, some communities in Agege (Oko-oba, Amao, Olurinde and environs etc) in Lagos had their electricity supply cut off between May 8, 2018 and May 23, 2018) while the power situation is worse in some other communities.