Users of electricity in Nigeria, particularly in Abuja are left at the receiving end of very poor service delivery that usually comes with a high price tag. HENRY TYOHEMBA explores the issue and shares some customer experiences.
Power outage has been a common phenomenon in Nigeria, however the recent increase in the electricity tariffs and complicacies in obtaining metres across the country is adding insult to the injury.
In Abuja, there have been instances where consumers have had to stay days and nights and even months without power whereas the bill keeps increasing. Despite the fact that Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) is one of Nigeria’s current 11 power distribution companies carved out of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria in November 2013 to maintain the distribution network of light in Nigeria, the journey so far has been that of so much pain according to consumers.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that, despite the privatisation of the country’s power sector and introduction of prepaid metres by distribution companies, crazy billing and outages continue unceasingly, while obtaining metres is becoming more complicated.
Mr Ibeh, a retired civil servant who resides in Lugbe, Abuja noted in an interview that if the situation continues many would have no choice than to stop electricity consumption.
According to him, earlier this year, he was giving a bill of 12,000 but April, 2019, the bill has been raised to over 40,000. “Our consumption level is very low and I am no longer working but the bill keeps on increasing. Earlier this year I was paying a monthly bill of over N12, 000 in my compound which was not easy. The beginning of March was the turning point, they brought a bill of N17,000 and while we were still complaining they increased it to N27, 000.
“ I wrote a letter of complaint to their branch office located in Zone 8 of the Lugbe axis and they assured me that they will react to it but the following month (April, 2019) the bill has been taken to over N40,000.”
Ibeh further said that despite the fact that he has been trying to figure out the cause of the unbearable bill from their branch offices, no clear explanation has been given. He added that, even though the bills are increasing every day, the supply of light in the area is nothing to write home about.
Mr Garland Ovello who lives in a self-contained apartment in Lugbe, Abuja, lamented that almost a quarter of his monthly salary goes only on electricity bills. Just last month, Ovello was surprised when he got his electricity bill for the previous month rising to N7,000.
Unable to contain his annoyance, he told our correspondent that “Six other tenants live in my compound and prior to this, every one of us was paying about N3000 but was still complaining, now that they have increased the bill to N7,000 per person there is no need for us to be using their light. If I buy a generator I will not spend even half of that amount they are charging,” he said.
The case of Dakwa community in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is not different from others. LEADERSHIP Sunday investigations showed that the community has been without light for over two years, yet the crazy bills continue ceaselessly.
This prompted community members to stage a protest recently at the head office of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) in Abuja, over high electricity estimated bills being imposed on them by the managers.
A huge crowd from the community could be seen marching to the firm’s office, demanding that incorrect power bills be withdrawn and for efforts to be made to restore light to the community after suffering for more than two years without power.
When our reporter contacted one of the leaders of the group, Barrister Lawal Jamilu said the community had laid several complaints prior to the protest but nothing has been done.
He said, “Dakwa is a community that has been living in darkness, despite the darkness, we pay the exorbitant bills being charged to us but they are now taking us for granted.
“We have been without light for more than two years and apart from that, we have 100 percent increment in NEPA bills. We have people paying N20,000 per month living in two bedroom flat.”
He said that the community is making only three demands which include a 33 KVA transformer, metering and suspension of the recent bill brought to them by the authorities.
Sadly, our correspondent was at the AEDC national headquarters in Wuse, Abuja to find out from the managers the cause for the high cost of bills and the complicacies in obtaining metres, but was not allowed into the premises.
Findings further showed that four years after the privatisation, many of the Discos have been unable to meet their metring obligations under the Performance Agreements with the Bureau of Public Enterprise.
While a recent data obtained from the Presidential Taskforce on Power showed that an estimated six million registered electricity consumers are in Nigeria, half of them are not metered and remain on estimated billing. Many who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday said they have resorted never to apply for metres hence they come to realise that the companies don’t want to give out metres for their own selfish gains.
It is however, disheartening that four years after the sector was privatised, electricity supply still remains a nightmare in Nigeria where the majority of the citizens are daily subjected to discomfort caused by erratic power supply and high billing system.
LEADERSHIP Sunday further gathered that most of the discos still rely on old methods of estimated billings by engaging in the equal allocation of bills to their consumers using the same feeder.
This billing process is usually done without recourse to the nature of the building occupied by each customer and the number of appliances or loads that consume electricity in such apartments.
A comparative analysis of copies of bills shown to our correspondent indicated that while a bill of N20,000 per month was given to an electricity consumer who lives in a three bedroom apartment, other consumers on the same premises who occupy for instance, two bed room apartment pay different amount for the same period.
To further show that something is wrong with the system, an analysis of some bills examined in some houses in Lugbe, Abuja showed that houses on same streets, sharing almost the same electrical appliances had differing bills .
Other consumers in the capital city are in one way or the other facing a lot of challenges. In other places where high electricity tariffs are not the issue, the communities are suffering from total neglect, meaning that light can sometimes had once in a month.
In one of such, a resident of Tudun Wada,Lugbe, Mr Cletus Tsegba told our correspondent that they have been without light for two months. “For two months our transformer has burnt out and we are being in darkness all the time. We need a new transformer,” he added.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that lack of electricity and its high billing is posing a great challenge to the development of this country as it affects all spheres of activities. Some of the students who spoke on the issue in FCT also lamented that it is affecting their learning.
In one of such, the new Student Union Government (SUG), President of University of Abuja chapter, Sulaiman Rabiu lamented that lack of constant supply of electricity in the school is creating negative impact on the lives of students. “We have been for weeks in the hostels without light,” he lamented.
Furthermore, stable electricity is the backbone of development. Several economies have thrived on stable and uninterrupted power supply. The federal government should take note of this psychological torture endured by its citizens and caused by unreliable power supply and roll up their sleeves to tackle the matter head on.