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Consumers, Gencos & Discos

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We once published this article in January 2018, detailing the complexity of consumer experience in relation to the activities of the 11 privatised electricity Distribution Companies (Discos) of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). Whereas we were clear in our minds the diversity of issues related with the over-operations, and also the effect of such complexities on the performance rating (and indicators), we are even now more focused on the single one of interest to us…Consumer Experience.
It is on that note we are bringing up the issues in a repeat publication.
More strongly, however, is the on-going Consumer Protection Council (CPC) Town Hall Meeting On Electricity, engaging with the Benin Electric Distribution Company (BEDC) and their customers. The event is only in its second day today (Wednesday May 9, 2018), yet so much has been revealed of customer dis-satisfaction. We salute the leadership of the CPC DG, Babatunde Irukera, who has dipped himself in the battle for consumer service.

The other important event at this time is the appointment of Professor James Momoh, recently sworn-in as executive chairman of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). It took the Federal Government approximately 28 months (THISDAY Online Media Report – May 9, 2018) to get this done in replacement of Dr Sam Amadi, whose chairmanship ended December 22, 2015. Important to note, because perhaps this delay slowed down the Commission’s action in certain regulatory regards, so now that we have a chairman, we need to relook at some of these issues from the retail end of evident inactions.
The efficiency of electricity generation and distribution across Nigeria, since the post-privatisation 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.
I

n 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 metres despite government intervention, subjecting them to estimated billing by the operators/DISCOs.

Consumers Council NG‏ @CPCNig
“A charged environment with BEDC and embittered customers. CPC insists this is exactly what governance is about, bringing stakeholders together for frank exchanges, many times not complimentary but bringing solutions” – Babatunde Irukera, DG, CPC (twitter message posted 11:31 AM – 8 May 2018)
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 optimising 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 government, (federal, states and local governments), 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 privatisation. 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 open to supply with an installed metre
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 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 on 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.

QUOTE:

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.




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