By Chika Izuora, Lagos
As electricity supply in the country improves, operators said about 2.8 million electricity consumers in Nigeria have no prepaid meters.
The Business Leader (Distribution), Sahara Group, the firm with majority stakes in Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, Mr. Rotimi Onanuga, who revealed this said the figure represented about 54.15 per cent of 5, 172, 979, the total number of power consumers in the country.
Onanuga, who spoke at the 2016 Huawei Connect conference in Shanghai, China, also said manufacturing and trade enterprises as well as private homes spent an average of N3.5tn (about $21.9bn) annually on diesel and petrol for power generation.
He added that the huge amount was due to the unstable power supply in the country.
His comment is coming as many consumers especially in Lagos reports that power supply have improved.
Corroborating this claim, spokeman of Eko Disco Godwin Idemudia in an interview with our correspondent said, “Yes, it is true that supply to our customers have increased a great deal compared to what we had previously.
If the present generation level is sustained, it means there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are grateful to the government for the vigorous push given to the energy sector. Stable electricity supply is the foundation of any meaningful development in countries around the world”.
Continuing he noted, “As you are aware, the supply is relatively stable but we are not yet there.
Customers are responding favourably well except some segment of our customers in ijesha/mushin area who still believe electricity supply should be free.
They are not helping us to serve them better. This is quite disturbing and not encouraging the investors that have invested so much in this business”
Idemudia expressed concern over energy theft which he said is still very rampant within the company’s network.
“It is strange and unbelievable that people involved in these heinous crimes are basically those you will never in ones widest imagination think they will indulge in such activities. It needs to stop if we must remain in the business of providing the much needed electricity to our customers and Nigerians.
Vandalism is still very much with us.
To stop it will involve all and sundry. It has to be a collective effort of everyone. Gone are the days when we nonchalantly say it is not our business when we see vandals and we do not report.
If vandalisation takes place in an area, the whole community will be in darkness. So I strongly believe in the slogan of “if you see something, say something “
That is the only and surest way we can tackle the issue of vandalism that has become a canker worm in this great country of ours.
On metering, he said the company plan on metering is going on steadily as it is doing all within its powers to meet up with the deadline by the regulatory commission.
Going forward, “We are deeply involved in community engagement right now on the prospect and challenges of our services to the people. We have equally mapped out a very robust plan on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Meanwhile, Onanuga said that the IKEDC had been able to distribute 61,000 meters within its area of coverage, but stated that the target was to distribute at least 300,000 meters on or before April 2017.
Onanuga listed some challenges facing power generation and the quick deployment meters to include high-line loss rate and serious electricity theft.
“The line loss rate can reach up to 40 per cent, which is much higher than that of European and American countries, pegged at eight per cent.
“Twenty per cent of consumers committed electricity theft and difficulties exist in supervision and regulation,” he said.
He expressed regret about the energy crisis in Nigeria “given that it is the most populous country in Africa, boasting a population of 173 million, which accounts for 16 per cent of the total population of Africa.”
He said, “Despite rich energy reserves, the enactment of the Power Reform Act, and continual government investments, Nigeria’s power supply still faces serious challenges with the fast development of the social economy.
“As the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria vigorously develops its infrastructures and invests primarily in four fields: energy generation, power transmission, power distribution, and renewable energy.
“Yet due to the unstable power supply, manufacturing enterprises, trade enterprises and common families spend an annual average of N3.5tn to purchase diesel and gasoline for power generation.”
The Sahara Group business leader also listed the difficulties in electricity fee collection as another challenge being faced by the IKEDC, saying that the payment period was often as long as three to four months, thereby delaying capital withdrawal.