Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has disclosed that over three million prepaid meters are to be rolled out under the Federal Government’s intervention programme. Speaking in Lagos on Sunday, June 18, Fashola explained that the intervention was consequent upon the incapacity of Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) to meter all the houses of power consumers all over the country. According to the Minister, the contract for the supply of the meters had been awarded by the government since 2003 but that they were not supplied. “In 2003, the government awarded a contract for three million meters but they were not supplied. I inherited it, they were in court and I am trying to take it out of the court so that we can settle and start the supply,’’ he said. Speaking further, he said that metering houses in the country have posed a challenge as there was no accurate database of actual consumers in the country.
Mr. Fashola said: “There is a database of six million households; it is a faulty base because we have more than six million households in the country. “There is a database of six million households; it is a faulty base because we have more than six million households in the country. “There are four types of consumers – R1 (poorest consumer), R2, R3 and maximum demand consumers — and they are not on the same plan. “DISCOs need to go into these houses, do an audit to determine the type of meters to install. “If you have a wrong meter, you will pay wrong price or bill. A meter is both a safety device and a measuring device; it can under read or over read or cause a fire if not properly installed. “But essentially, the DISCOs must provide prepaid meters, it is only fair and let the consumer manage his consumption and billing system because he has a meter.’’
Mr. Fashola described the challenges facing the nation’s power sector as man-made. He identified planning, way of life and human behavioural problem as some of the intractable issues. Others are power wastage, building of houses in difficult terrain without approval, lack of conservation culture and energy theft. “Some people will put on a 70 or 120-watt bulb as security light for 24 hours, including the daytime when they do not need it and it is because they have either stolen the energy or bypassed their meters. “They are robbing DISCOs of huge sums of money as they may not be able to pay back the energy they bought for distribution,” the minister said. According to a report on the News Agency of Nigeria, electricity consumers pay N25,000 (official), N35, 000 (fast-track) for single-phase prepaid meters, while the three-phase models go for N50,000 and above.
Consumers have consistently complained that despite making a down payment for several months or a year for the meters to be supplied by DISCOs, it was never supplied. This has exposed consumers to the user-unfriendly estimated billing system or “crazy’’ bills. Meanwhile, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, has declared that electricity consumers that were not provided with prepaid meters as at March 1 should stop paying electricity bills presented by DISCOs on the basis of estimated billing methodology. The commission also ordered the DISCOs not to disconnect any such customer that refuses to pay the bills and further advised such customers to report to the commission if disconnected. The NERC said the new directive is in line with its mandate of protecting the rights of customers.