The efficiency of electricity generation and distribution across Nigeria, since the post-privatization era, is open to different interpretation by corporate and individual consumers across the country. We dare say, however, that consumer experience is one of disappointment, and so we have tried to focus on the critical issues of frontal impact on the consumer for the benefit of ALL.
Understandably, government intervention in power sector is a function of determination and commitment, especially among developing nations such as Nigeria. In Nigeria, however, what we see is one of suspicion; a deliberate attempt by the private investors to undermine the needed investment approach towards improving on inherited position for meaningful progress.
In CONSUMERS’ ASSEMBLY’s interactions with consumers across Nigeria, we heard stories of personal experience from James Nanyiso, a businessman residing in Abuja, in which he said one of the major considerations for power distribution/supply in and around the FCT is the profile of location and residents. In other words, socio-economic considerations play a major role in the distribution and supply of electricity; where the high net-worth live (Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse, etc.) get the most supply. According to Nanyiso still, most consumers settled in the satellite areas of the FCT don’t have access to prepaid meters despite government intervention, subjecting them to estimated billing by the operators/DISCOs.
On his part, Abubakar Aliyu, a civil servant in Damaturu, Yobe State, in a telephone conversation with CONSUMERS’ ASSEMBLY disclosed that the situation in Yobe State has become worrisome on account of poor service, upon which already deprived consumers are made to pay outrageous bills. To him, the prevalent situation is a rip-off of an unbearable proportion, for whereas electricity is hardly available to power businesses and homes, they are compelled to pay outrageous bills. Nigeria is said to require about 160,000 megawatts to reach the globally accepted standards and meet the power needs of its 170 million populations. But the country lurches between about 2, 000 megawatts and 4, 600 megawatts, a generation capacity that is grossly inadequate.
However, consumers’ position is that emphasis should shift from contributory to sustainable growth by the rating for national resource allocation in support of electricity generation and distribution if we must power meaningful economic growth. Increasing demand for electricity supply is in direct relation to growing population and economic activities. Industry operators must set their goals at optimizing their collective investment towards consumer satisfaction, therefore. Volume, quality, and volume of energy as a propelling factor for economic growth is a major consideration in international economic rating among nations. For comparative rating and competitive advantage, therefore, players should begin to consult experts in order to effectively contribute meaningfully to our overall economic growth and development.
That leads us to the point where all stakeholders’ deliberate engagement is imperative. On the part of the government, (federal, states and local government), investment decision/policy on electricity (energy) generation and distribution must assume a developmental investment approach. We are not unmindful of the weak infrastructure failing in the intentions towards improving generation and distribution, but all of these should have been taken into consideration at the point of working out the process of privatization. That is why we hold the investors responsible for the present poor showing.
We advise CONSUMERS to be conscious of their right to proper installation, metering and supply of electricity as a pre-requisite for billing. Consumers must note the following, therefore:
• Every new consumer must be opened to supply with an installed meter
• A customer who elects to procure meter under the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) Scheme must be metered within 60 days, after which the customer will neither be billed nor disconnected by the electricity distribution company.
• It is the customer’s right to transparent electricity billing. Unmetered customers should be issued with electricity bills strictly based on NERC’s estimated billing method.
• It is the customer’s right to be notified in writing ahead of disconnection of electricity service by the electricity distribution company serving the customer in line with NERC’s guidelines.
• It is the customer’s right to prompt investigation of complaints arising from electricity service disruption
• It is not the responsibility of electricity customer or community to buy, replace or repair electricity transformers, poles and related equipment used in the supply of electricity.
• It is the customer’s right to contest any electricity bill. Any unmetered customer who is disputing his or her estimated bill has the right not to pay the disputed bill, but pay only the last undisputed bill as the contested bill goes through the dispute resolution process of NERC.
• All complaints about a customer’s electricity supply and other billing issues are to be sent to the business unit of the presiding DisCo serving the premises. In case of unsatisfactory intervention, the customer can forward complaint to the NERC Forum Office within the coverage area of the electricity distribution company. Customers also have the right to appeal the decision of the forum at the NERC headquarters in Abuja.
Consumers can also talk to us at CONSUMERS’ ASSEMBLY, a platform registered by Consumers Protection Council (CPC) for consumer education, enlightenment & advocacy in Nigeria.