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Only monthly limit in metering customers can compel Discos, MAPs to be serious—Expert

Lagos public affairs analysts, Dr. Ken Igboanugo has averred that the best option to smoke out meters for Nigerians is to give every Electricity Distribution Company  (Disco) and Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) a target number of meters that must be fixed for consumers monthly.

This is coming as the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola on Monday, warned the Chairman of Nigerian Electricity Regularly Commission (NERC), Prof James Momoh, on the observed lackluster approach applied by Discos and MAPs in metering Nigerians.

The minister’s anger heightened over the rising nationwide complaints on estimated billings and mass disconnection at a time the number of licenced MAPs have hit 85 in number.

Fashola relied on relevant sections of the Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act of 2005 to explain why it was high time that the government acted and put an end to the excesses of the power distributors.

The visibly disturbed minister said “Government must act and will do so. The Discos bought these power assets with their eyes opened, and they must compete to deliver or exit.

“It is not my intention, or that of the government, to take over the business of the Discos. On the contrary, it is the government’s desire to see the Discos thrive in a competitive environment.

“In the period when they are not yet ready, willing, or able, life must go on and we must find solutions and substitutes as we have seen in other sectors.”

In his submission, he averred that it has become necessary to direct NERC to step in to “ensure that the Discos improve on their distribution equipment and capacity to take up the available 2,000 megawatts in order to optimise the use of the electrical resource produced by the Gencos, and I direct NERC to immediately act in this regard”.

“NERC should enforce the contract of the Discos to supply meters and act to ensure the urgent and speedy supply and installation of meters with a view to eliminating estimated billing and promote efficient industry and market structures.

“NERC should stop the Discos from threatening private entrepreneurs from entering the market to supply consumers, whom the Discos cannot supply, and to license such persons subject to terms and conditions in order to promote competition and private sector participation, and avoid a private monopoly of power.”

He revealed further that “Clearly, unless the Discos have a licence that is endorsed as exclusive, it is clear that no Disco has exclusivity over its franchise area and also NERC has not issued any exclusive licence to any power firm.

“It is obvious that the law did not intend to replace government monopoly of the PHCN in the power sector with a private monopoly of businessmen,” the minister observed.

Explaining more in a telephone interview, Dr. Igboanugo said “There seems to be a synergy amongst the Discos in tactically delaying the issuance of meters to consumers so as to continue to live on estimated billing.”

“If you go to any of the Discos and observe, you will notice that the laid down process of obtaining prepaid meters is quite different from the fast, costly and complicated way of obtaining the same meters. So who is fouling who?

He said “All the Discos have perfected how they will continue to manipulate the government on the meter issue while they continue to milk Nigerians using estimated billing. If you can recall, it is only during the period bills are shared that the anger on estimated billings come up; thereafter, it dies only to resurrect again within the second and third week of every month.

“To me, issue an Executive Order and give both Discos and MAPs just two months, you will see that not up to five days after the order, prepaid meters will be everywhere,” Dr Igbonugo noted.