Billing Controversy Threatens Electricity Supply to South East

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Consumers allege 300% increase in tariffs
Electricity consumers in the Southeast are threatening a showdown with the only service provider, the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), over alleged outrageous billings and mass disconnection of debtors.

The development may compound the already epileptic power supply situation in the zone.

Investigations by The Guardian revealed that the October 2016 electricity bills which are the cause of the present squabble was increased by over 300 per cent, especially for consumers not metered and those without pre-paid metering system.

As consumers vowed not to pay the new bills and the EEDC continues to disconnect defaulters, businesses, residential homes and many others who depend largely on public power supply would be adversely affected. Due to indebtedness, the EEDC may have suffered great loss and may not have the financial capacity to continue to purchase power to adequately serve the needs of her consumers.

“The situation also has the potency to add to cost of living as well as loss of jobs. We do photocopies at N5 per page when there is power supply, but a page, with a power generating set, goes for N10. I foresee when the EEDC will no longer provide services because they have continued to cry about loss of revenue,” Uzonna Ugwu, who runs a business centre, said.

A new tariff regime by the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) which took effect from February this year, empowers the EEDC to increase its tariff from next year, for all categories of consumers, except the residential customers who will continue to enjoy four naira per unit until 2024. Commercial, industrial and special consumers will have their tariff increased by three kobo from next year in line with the regulation

Sources told The Guardian that the “outrageous bills” became inevitable following the increasing losses being incurred daily by the electricity distribution company by way of energy theft by residents across the five states of the zone.

Outraged at the high bills for October, electricity consumers in the zone under the aegis of Enugu Electricity Consumers Forum (EECF) directed residents not to honour them but pay their old bills and wait for further instruction.

Angered by the development, the EEDC resorted to mass disconnection of consumers, including those who did not make their full payments on the new bills across the five states. Since then, there has been no electricity supply to many areas.

The EEDC has over one million consumers on its network, which spans the entire five states of the Southeast zone. As at March this year, however, statistics showed that about 70 per cent of her customers (about 512,335) were not metered, an indication that many may be enjoying supply without paying the requisite bills.

The Head of Communications of the EEDC, Mr. Emeka Ezeh told The Guardian that the major challenge the company faced was inability to “capture consumers who are not in the database of the company,” stressing that the development had always led to revenue loss.

Yesterday, officials of the EECF drawn from the five states who met in Enugu gave the EEDC up to today to reconnect all those disconnected and restore normal supply as well as replace faulty transformers that littered the zone.

In a protest letter entitled “Save our soul” which they sent to the Acting Chairman of NERC, they alleged that they had severally been shortchanged by the EEDC through estimated billings, irregular power supply and non-maintenance of facilities.

 The letter which was copied the five governors of the zone, EEDC management, security agencies and some religious leaders in the zone was signed by the National Chairman of EECF, Rev Okechukwu Obioha and Secretary, Chinedu Okongwu.
“Despite not getting electricity as we ought to, outrageous bills are sent to us monthly as estimated customers; now we have reached the melting point in our patience and long-suffering, we have decided to issue this Save Our Soul appeal to you,” they said.

When contacted, Ezeh explained that the increase noticed in the bill was not caused by a new tariff but a billing methodology approved by NERC for electricity consumers who have not been metered. “It has been in existence but we have not been using it. However, we noticed that we have been incurring much loss from consumers without meters, so the best way is to share the energy they consume to enable us to recoup. We have explained this to their leaders and the fact that our facilities keep breaking down from these unauthorised users,’’ he said.

Source: Guardian

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