By Oji Odu
Why does the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IEDC) think that the solution of the problem of its electricity district, and Nigeria’s electricity sector is the formation of an electricity Bill Resolution Board (BRB)? Why does it think that the nations electricity consumers have become so senseless that they will waste their precious times to come and engage in unfruitful arguments so that their crazy bills will be reduced? Why do they think that they are doing Nigerian electricity consumers favour by establishing such board instead of doing the right thing-metering the unmetered, which they know will solve the problem?
As part of its efforts to solve the issue of increasing customer complaints arising from estimated bills, IKEDC has set up a Bill Dispute Resolution Panel (BDRP) across its undertaking offices to help resolve cases of disputed bills.
The panel made up of selected staff with expertise in the business operations and customer services, will meet with customers once in every month across its six business units to resolve persistent complaints arising from estimated billing. The panel will be empowered to resolve these cases expeditiously relying on company processes and regulatory requirements.
In a Statement, the company’s Head of Corporate Communications, Felix Ofulue, said the idea of setting up the panel is to quickly and amicably resolve lingering service issues raised by customers
“In a service industry like the power sector, disputes occurring as a result of dissatisfaction from customers are inevitable. However, if inadequately managed, disputes can be bad for business and even go as far as negatively impacting on customers’ loyalty and business brand respectively. So, we understand that fact and we are doing the best within our control to manage our customers’ expectations”
“In line with our business objectives, we seek to be the provider of choice. Our customers need to be satisfied for us to be in business. The BDRP also enables customers plan their visits according to their itinerary since the panel sits for resolution once every month. This initiative is in addition to the daily attendance to customer complaints through the customer service channels and the IE offices across the network,” he explained.
Ofulue also pointed out that in addition to the newly introduced initiative, the company also recently launched the e-billing of Maximum Demand (MD) customers, a paperless and seamless billing technology aimed at providing MD customers easier option of receiving their monthly bills via sms, emails and subsequently the use of USSD and IE website”.
“Ikeja Electric continues in its quest for excellent service with innovations that reflects the company’s long-standing commitment to delivering practical solutions for customers,” he added
Will this new board deliver practical solutions to the customers’ electricity problems in the district/country which is greatly hinged on crazy billing and poor metering? Is it not a distraction aimed at not putting in good effort to solve the poor metering and crazy billing issues?
The Magazine’s findings show that IEDC had in late 2018 embarked on the installation of about 85,000 prepaid meters in an effort to bridge the yawning gap of the unmetered in its zone comprising-Ikeja, Akowonjo, Ikorodu, Oshodi, Abule Egba and Shomolu. This followed the numeration of the unmetered in the district which it revealed that it had metered about 300,000 of its over 700,000 customers.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had directed the electricity DISCOs to conduct and complete the enumeration of customers for metering in their various franchise area by March 31st, 2019. According to the Commission, this would help improve access to meters and help the DISCOs promptly attend to electricity issues. In a statement published on its website, NERC also urged customers to co-operate with the DISCOs during the exercise as this is in their best interest.
In 2016, the DISCOs conducted a comprehensive enumeration of unmetered customers with a view to supplying meters aimed at phasing out the controversial estimated billings. But two years after, majority of enumerated customers are still without meters. The DISCOs had blamed on lack of funds to procure meters for the increasing customer base.
In November 2018, the umbrella body of the 11 DISCOs, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors(ANED), noted that the current identified approximately 4.1 million meter gap was a legacy of 62 years of government under-investment and the Power Holdings Company of Nigeria (PHCN) inefficiency.
According to the Director of Research and Advocacy, Sunday Oduntan, the N305 billion total Capital Expenditure(CAPEX) for the 11 DISCOs for five years was no longer realistic considering the N299 billion required to address the gap. The CAPEX covers for all metering, network expansion, rehabilitation and replacement of transformers, injection stations among others.
He further explained that the gap has continued to grow as DISCOs continue to enumerate and identify their customers, replace non-functional and aged meters.
“The gap not only exceeds the 1.7 million metering obligation specified in the DISCOs performance agreement, out of which the DISCOs have delivered 88 percent of their metering obligation and the 2.7 million metering gap at the handover of the DISCOs but exceeds the allowance for total capital expenditure-N305 billion for 11 DISCOs, over five years.
“In simple terms, the cost of comprehensive metering currently, simply dwarfs the ability of the current tariff to accommodate same. It means that the already artificially suppressed tariff cannot accommodate the cost without an increase,” he stated.
In a chat with Felix Abdul, an energy expert, he expressed anger and regret that IEDC could not do something better than setting up a board for their electricity customers to come and engage in unfruitful arguments.
“ That board should come after they have already settled the problem of poor metering, estimated billing, poor power supply et cetera. What do they want the customers to come and do when they have refused to listen to the people, some of who are given a monthly electricity bill of between N10,000 and N15,000 for enjoying most parts of each day in darkness, and who do not use such electricity gargets as to warrant such bill.
“ They should rather concentrate in the metering of their customers instead of embarking on such a fruitless venture which they know will not come to any good,” he said.
In his reaction, Dele Adetunji, a Landlord at Irawo, Owode Onirin, said that this is a waste of time because, “ what have they done to many visits and reports and complaints we had made to them in the past? Did they reduced the heavy bills they bring to us monthly? No. Rather, we have been insulted on these occasions. This is a deceit and wild goose chase. They know what to do, let them meter the consumers”