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Inability to meter Nigerians a deliberate fraud by Discos—NERC

The leadership of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), has came down hard on the 11 Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos) who are the concessionaires of all the unbundled power undertakings’ in Nigeria more than five years ago.

The Commission said for almost six years on after the nation’s power sector was privatised, 55 per cent of electricity consumers are still being subjected to estimated billing.

This is contained in the latest NERC quarterly report made available to Business Hilights Abuja Bureau chief.

Though the report agreed that the provision of meters would improve revenue collection by the distribution companies (Discos), body languages of the Discos are saying otherwise, thus fueling their ongoing template not to meter majority of electricity users across Nigeria even they continue to dodge access to enough power from Gencos for distribution.

NERC report averred further that “Metering gap for end-use customers still remains a key challenge facing the electricity industry. The records of the commission indicate that of the 8,310,408 registered electricity customers, only 3,704,302 (about 45 per cent) have been metered as at the end of the third quarter of 2018.

“Thus, the majority of customers (55 per cent) are still on estimated billing, thus contributing to customer apathy towards payment for electricity.”

In a number case, several Discos, including Enugu, Ibadan, Benin and even Eko and Ikeja Discos had been challenged by aggrieved customers on issues bordering on delivery of prepaid meters but with poor answers.

NERC report added that the population of registered customers increased by 4.2 per cent in the third quarter, compared to the second quarter, while the metered customers increased by a relatively higher proportion of 4.4 per cent.

“The observed increase in registered customers was a consequence of the ongoing enumeration exercise by Discos, which has helped Discos to properly register individuals who had previously consumed electricity through illegal connection to the networks.”

According to NREC, a review of the customer population data indicated that only Abuja, Benin and Port Harcourt Discos had metered more than 50 per cent of their customers as of the end of September 2018.

“The commission, therefore, has intensified its monitoring of Discos’ implementation of and compliance to the provisions of the Meter Asset Providers regulations in order to fast-track meter roll-out and close the metering gap in Nigerian electricity supply industry within three years,” it added.

The report also noted that a major initiative towards improving revenue collection in the electricity industry is the provision of meters to all registered end-use consumers of electricity, saying “To this end, the commission continues to monitor Discos’ process of procuring MAP in compliance with the provisions of the Meter Access Providers (MAP)  Regulations.

Business Hilights recalls that the MAP Regulations issued by NERC in March 2018 aims at fast-tracking the roll-out of meters through the engagement of third-party investors for the financing, procurement, supply, installation and maintenance of electricity meters.

However, there are unconfirmed reports that Discos are serially frustrating the seriousness of MAPs in rolling out improved and digitally driven prepaid meters so as to continue milking majority of Nigerians currently on estimated billing.