The federal government has disbursed a total of N158.74 billion to electricity distribution companies (DisCos), generation companies (GenCos), gas companies and service providers under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Nigerian Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility.
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this while testifying before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the need to curb excessive electricity charges being levied on consumers by distribution companies.
Emefiele revealed that out of the money, seven DisCos received N49,841,913billion, 18 GenCos got N73,545,871billion, six gas companies got N24,892,952 billion, while service providers were paid N10,463,904,265 billion.
He added that the apex bank also intervened by providing a payment assurance facility and has so far disbursed N330 billion out of a projected N701 billion to ensure that electricity becomes sufficient. He said, “The intention is that power should continue to be supplied, while the sector sort itself out in the following areas: reduce the losses that have plagued the industry, increase collection and arrive at a realistic tariff that phases out shortfalls”.
The governor however confirmed that the CBN has no record of metered customers and estimated billed customers. Also speaking at the hearing, chairman of the board of Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Company (NERC), Prof James Momoh, told the lawmakers that the commission was doing everything possible to ensure that billing was done in accordance with consumption.
He said that NERC had fined some DisCos the sum of N134.1 million due to violations of electricity regulations and that the same money was duly transferred to the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) account.
“All the reports related to the fines are published annually. NERC is taking measures to improve on the services by discos”, he noted.
Momoh also hinted that metres to consumers will be fully available in the next three years, beginning from January next year.
He further noted that the commission is committed to providing electricity and eradicating excessive charges through the metre assets producer, MAPs programme, which among others is to ensure local manufacturers of prepaid meters by encouraging 30% local content input.
“We are giving franchise to local meters manufacturers who have the means and extending dates to bring in interested manufacturers. We do all these to reduce estimated billings and excessive charges”, he said.
The NERC boss noted that as part of regulation, most DisCos have been sanctioned over excessive charges and the monies returned to the affected consumers, like in Enugu, Port Harcourt, EKo, Ibadan. “More punishments were still being meted out for infractions on distribution companies”, he said adding that NERC is still exploring all the provisions of the power sector reform Act “to ensure that best practices were observed in the industry, while the consumers are not shortchanged”.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) has called for proper testing of metres before they are imported and installed across in the country.
The Director of NEMSA, Engr. Peter Ewesor, who made the call, noted that every procedure required for testing a metre, which is ‘Type and Routine Test’, must be adhered.
He listed old age of metres, leakages in current or electricity as well as generators that were not well connected to the main switch or changeover switch as responsible for increased charges.
The committee however accused NERC and DisCos of conniving to shortchange and extort money from Nigerians through excessive billing.
According to the committee chairman, Israel Famurewa, majority of the DisCos are operated by “fraudsters” who are masters in cheating electricity consumers across the country.
Similarly, a member of the committee, Hon. Raphael Igbokwe said, “With all what NERC said, they’ve not addressed the issue of excessive and outrageous billing. Nigerians are suffering and they’re not addressing that.
“All these things NERC said amount to stories. How are you proffering solutions to the issue of estimated and outrageous billing?”
Also, Hon. Muazu Lawal opined that the agency as well as DisCos are not living up to their billing. He said, “It appears DisCos and other stakeholders are not ready for the job before them. You just go about billing people the way you like without considering the actual power they consume. This happens everywhere in the country and even here in Abuja.
“From what’s happening, I think DisCos are either operated by fraudsters or they’re just extorting money from Nigerians. If you’re not ready for the job, tell us you’re not ready”.
Meanwhile, Speaker Yakubu Dogara explained that the investigation is being carried out with a view to reducing the financial burden on Nigerians and finding a lasting solution to the crisis currently plaguing the energy sector.
Dogara who said this while declaring the hearing open said, “The House is aware of the financial hardship being experienced by most of our people, due to the high electricity charges by DISCOs.
“This has further compounded the difficulty brought about by the economic downturn in the country. We are, therefore, determined to get all the facts on the matter, with a view to addressing it”.
The speaker revealed that the committee was setup following allegations that after the unbundling of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the DISCOs hurriedly installed new sets of prepaid meters, which gobble the units purchased much faster than the older prepaid meters.
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