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Prepaid meters 77

Recapitalizing Discos best option to drive metering Nigerian electricity consumers—FG

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In what tends to suggest that the recent process where about 85 companies had been licensed to meter Nigerian electricity consumers as Meter Access Providers (MAPs) is bound to fail on arrival, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola has said that Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) must insist that the Discos recapitalise in order to adequately fund the supply of meters and distribution equipment in their respective franchise areas.

It was not clear if the suggestion is linked to the government’s silence on releasing the pledged N37b for the takeoff of MAPs as the time given by the government for the disbursement seems to have elapsed.

Analysts say the implication of the position by the top government official is that with the current state of affairs, Discos cannot afford to fund metering due to paucity of funding.

The minister was aware that the contract mandating power distribution companies to provide meters for their customers and eliminate estimated billing in the sector is still intact but fails to invoke sanctions.

It would be recalled that the Federal Government had penultimate Monday, ordered NERC to enforce the contract for the Discos to provide meters and end estimated billing.

In the order, government made it clear that the directive to NERC became inevitable following the number of complaints coming to it for meters, which the Discos should supply, as well as concerns about estimated billing and mass disconnection, adding that the situation would not be allowed to continue.

However, giving a download on why such order had become necessary, the minister averred that “There are many things that NERC can do and one of the obligations and contracts between the BPE (Bureau of Public Enterprises) and the Discos is that certain number of meters will be supplied under the contract; that’s a contractual obligation. And if the contractual obligation inures to my favour, I should be able to go and enforce it.

“There are also statutory and regulatory obligations, which are conditions for the grant of the licences by NERC to the Discos. Under the terms of their licences, there are things they are supposed to do, and within the law, there are things that NERC as a regulator can and should do if a licensee is not fulfilling the terms of that licence.”

“So, nobody in this system is helpless, whether the BPE or NERC. The BPE is a contracting party, not the Ministry of Power, NERC is a regulatory authority, not the Minister of Power. For example, Sections 73 and 74 (of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, 2005) provide NERC with very clear power to amend the licence and withdraw or revoke the licence for non-compliance. That is NERC’s job to exercise its powers when it feels that certain things are not done.

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