Until 2013 when it was privatized, the power sector in Nigeria was managed by the Federal Government through the power holdings company of Nigeria.
Inappropriate charges arising from estimated billings that had bedevilled the sector over the years became aggravated since the hand over to private owners leading to the controversy between the distribution companies and consumers.
The level of consumption is determined by the electricity meter, a device that measures the amount of energy used by a residence, a business or an electrically powered device.
Electricity meters are read on periodically to establish billing cycles and energy used during the period.
Basically, there are three ways of charging customers. These are a postpaid metering system, estimated billing system and prepaid billing system.
Post-paid metering system involves the payment of electricity bills after consumption by the customers, this according to regulatory body has led to drastic increase in non-payment of bills by customers, while estimated billing system is when consumers are mandated to pay far above what they consume monthly as they have no meter to determine the actual electricity consumed.
Prepayment method is when consumers buy credit in their electricity account before the usage of the service when such credit is depleted, supply is remotely disconnected.
However, it has been discovered that some consumers still engage in illegal means of using electricity without payment while often times, distribution officials aid and albeit such acts.
This necessitated the introduction of the prepaid meter to aid revenue collection, and also with a view to abolishing meter reading and thus halt estimated billing believed to have many irregularities.
Upon introduction, customers heaved a sigh of relief.
The pre-paid meter billing system unarguably has been described as the best by consumers as it made them conscious and economical in their energy utilization habits.
However, despite these advantages, pre-paid meter billing system is not available to potential customers.
According to 2016 data from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), over three million out of the 7.47 million customers nationwide have pre-paid meters meaning that only 45 percent of customers have access to them.
Similarly, the Nigerian extractive industry transparency initiative, NEITI, in its latest audit reports, identified non-metering as a major source of revenue loss in the country.
To bridge the enormous metering gap, in 2012, NERC, introduced a new meter intervention programme tagged, ‘Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation’ (CAPMI).
Under the CAPMI scheme, customers are expected to self-finance the meter, with the meter cost repaid over a period from their energy charge at a 12 percent interest rate per annum.
Speaking at a forum on the steps being taken at providing electricity for the people, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, explained that the Federal Government had approved 39 billion naira loan for electricity distribution companies (discos) for the supply of meters.
Mr Fashola, said the Federal Government had concluded plans to involve more Nigerians in meter manufacturing, pointing out that the measure would reduce the pressure on electricity distribution companies on meter supply.
This has made it imperative for the management of all electricity distribution companies, Discos, to promote and patronize local meter manufacturers to meet up with the demands of consumers, especially those who had paid the prerequisite fees.
There is a need for the constant routine check by electricity workers to discover energy theft while consumers should equally desist from tapping electricity line illegally.
It is also important to review the 2013 power sector privatization to ensure optimal performance by electricity distribution companies.
With speed applications of the measures suggested, the electricity sector, as a major catalyst for economic activities and growth, will be empowered to play its roles well in the interest of national development.
Source: Radio Nigeria Ibadan