Electricity Metering: Not For DISCOs

By Oji Odu

With earlier partial failure by Federal Government to meter the unmetered electricity consumers, despite billions of grant to the electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs), there is a lot of skepticism to the success of the new N37 billion grant by government to the DISCOS to provide meters to their unmetered customers through an undisclosed private operator so as to solve the prolonged issue of crazy billing.

To many electricity consumers, this new intervention is dead on arrival. This is because there is no means of compelling the DISCOs who will do everything to frustrate the move to support any idea that will deal with this hydra-headed problem of the power sector.

The federal government had taken advantage of the new Meter Asset Provider (MAP) regulations to give a grant of N37billion to a private sector operator to supply meters to interested Distribution Companies (DISCOs). Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, disclosed this at the 28th monthly meeting of power stakeholders in Kaduna. The minister also urged Power Distribution Companies (DISCOs) to access the N37 billion fund as part of government’s measures towards addressing challenges associated with the estimated billing system.

The Minister who did not mention the name of the private company said the Federal Government provided the fund based on increasing demand for meters and the raging face-off between DISCOs and their consumers, given the increasing power generation, transmission and distribution in the country. He stated this at a recent meeting, hosted by Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company at the Mando transmission substation, which had in attendance representatives of government power agencies and private operators across the value chain of Generation, Transmission and Distribution.

“Meter supply has become the big issue of the moment that consumers want us to resolve. As a Government, we hear them loudly and clearly, and as service providers, we hope that you can hear them too. As power supply continues to increase in Generation, Transmission and Distribution, the demand for meters will increase because more power supply and consumption will likely result in increased bills.

“Estimated billings in these circumstances will become a major cause of distrust and conflict between consumers and DISCOs, and meters are the easiest way to build the bridge of trust.”

Speaking on efforts being made to address the issue, Fashola said, “On the Executive side of Government, we are responding by taking advantage of the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) Regulations to deploy a fund of N37bn towards supplying meters through private sector.

“I urge all DISCOs who have not taken benefit of this opportunity to quickly do so, or make their own funding arrangements to contract their own meter providers to supply and install meters.

In a chat with Kaliwo Johnson, an energy expert, his expressed fears that this move may likely go the way of previous ones, and yield no tangible results.

“ It is a pity that with all these good ideas on how to boost the sector and resolve the issue of crazy billing et cetera, there are no laws to compel these DISCOs to meter their unmetered customers. Even this one is somehow faulty because it is not a must that the DISCOs contract the said private meter provider. They are given the option to contract and fund their metering programme. But the question remains: Do they really want to meter their customers?”

Tokumbo Babatunde, a businessman at Ketu, Lagos was angry with the recent move by government to meter unmetered electricity consumers. “ What has been the result of past interventions? Nothing. Even when they threatened defaulting DISCOs, did it make them provide the meters they are hoarding in their warehouses? No. How then does government think this N37 billion grant will make them do it?”

Babatunde believes that this is another of many government scams in recent times to raise money to prosecute the 2019 general elections.

In another chat with the magazine, Mrs. Uche Stevens, a Housewife lamented that she does not believe that government is sincere to solve the problem of crazy billing in the country. “ It is a pity that these DISCOs see Nigerians as avenues of profiteering. That is why with nobody ready to complain, they are not ready to provide the meters, especially with government’s position always tilting in the DISCOs favour, because they are secret DISCOs stakeholders.

“ Let them stop deceiving us. They have just told Nigerians that they have approved of another N37 billion to share,” she said.

The Magazine learnt that the two main electricity Unions- National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) had since last year expressed their resentment to such grant, especially the N39 billion loan last year to the 11 DISCOs to procure and install meters to their customers.

But reacting to the proposed loan shortly after accepting to sign the staff condition of service agreement with the AEDC, the General Secretary of NUEE, Joe Ajaero, had asked the Managing Director of AEDC, Ernest Mupwaya if it was right for the government to provide such financial supports to the Discos and other operators in the sector after selling off the power assets to their current operators.

Ajearo stated that the NUEE was also not in support of the N701 billion intervention fund the government had earmarked to support power generation companies (Gencos).
According to him, the electricity sector could be described as a being in trouble if it still required financial bailouts from the government after four years of its privatisation.

“If after four years of running as private companies you (power firms) are still looking for bailout funds or loans, then I think there is problem, because it shouldn’t be so,” Ajaero said.
Similarly, the President of SSAEAC, Chris Okonkwo, who also signed the AEDC staff condition of service agreement for his group, stated that the association would oppose the use of public funds to support the power companies.

He said the firms had not delivered satisfactorily after four years of their privatisation and so do not merit such financial supports from the government.
“Labour will not accept the borrowing of N39 billion by the federal government to Discos for the procurement of meters. We raised this issue at the Trade Union Congress meeting and we advise you (Discos) to start looking for alternatives,” Okonkwo stated.

ad not delivered satisfactorily after four years of their privatisation and so do not merit such financial supports from the government.
“Labour will not accept the borrowing of N39 billion by the federal government to Discos for the procurement of meters. We raised this issue at the Trade Union Congress meeting and we advise you (Discos) to start looking for alternatives,” Okonkwo stated.

 

 

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