Electricity prepaid meters: To be given free of charge by EKEDC

Adebayo Obajemu

Electricity consumers in Nigeria either residential or commercial have always had reasons to complain about power supply and outrageous billing of the distribution companies (DisCos). It is either that there is no light, or the bill is not commensurate to consumption.

Majority were filled with hope a few years back when distribution companies (DisCos) took over the responsibility of electricity distribution in the country. We thought that our days of darkness is over.

As far as Nigerians are concerned, electric distribution companies are still regarded as ‘NEPA’, an acronym that would linger in our memories for years to come. They are perceived as wicked, insensitive, cruel and exploitative. How do you explain generating bill for an apartment that has been under lock and key months? How do you explain paying for what you did not use? Even if you complain, they tell you ‘oga go and pay first’, we will rectify it on your next bill. Sad enough, it never happens, the bills keeps accumulating. Then their disconnection team will storm your compound, disconnect you without notice. They afterwards handover a reconnection slip expecting you to pay N2,000.

We more or less have no choice when dealing with these NEPA guys unless you want to stay in darkness while you watch others have light.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) stated the rights and obligations of consumers on their website.

The rights of customers as stated by NERC include:

All new electricity connections must be done strictly based on metering before connection. That is, no new customer should be connected by a DisCo without a meter first being installed at the premises.All customers have a right to electricity supply in a safe and reliable manner.All customers have a right to a properly installed and functional meter.All customers have a right to properly informed and educated on the electricity service.All customers have a right to transparent electricity billing.All Un-metered customers should be issued with electricity bills strictly based on NERC’s estimated billing methodology.It is the customer’s right to be notified in writing ahead of disconnection of electricity service by the DisCo serving the customer in line with NERC’s guidelines.All customers have a right to refund when over billed.All customers have a right to file complaints and to the prompt investigation of complaints.All complaints on electricity supply and other billing issues are to be sent to the nearest business unit of the DisCo serving the customer.If a complaint is not satisfactorily addressed, customers have a right to escalate the issue to the NERC Forum office within the coverage area of the DisCo.Customers have the right to appeal the decision of the NERC Forum Office by writing a petition to the Commission.It is the customer’s right to contest any electricity bill.Any un-metered 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 go through the dispute resolution process of NERC.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 appears that these consumers rights listed above have been violated a number of times by DisCo officials as most consumers are given estimated bills even when they have meter.

In 2018, the Electricity Power Reform Act Bill was passed by the House of Representatives, prohibiting and criminalizing estimated billing. One-year jail term and a fine of N1m was proposed for defaulters.

The then Majority Leader of the House, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, sponsored the bill in protest against the ‘crazy’ billing of consumers by the Discos.

The lawmaker had stated that estimated billing could only be used in situations where a consumer’s meter could not be accessed by the service provider. He said Discos