From Isaac Anumihe, Abuja
Like a hurricane fire, the news of the arrival of pre-paid meters spread to all the nooks and crannies of Nyanya community in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. It came when most electricity consumers have spent thousands of naira to get the facility without success.
The news of the arrival of the most-wanted commodity brought with it a mixture of joy and sadness. Joy for those who waited patiently for the meter without mortgaging their money. Sadness for consumers who spent a lot of money to obtain the item from wrong hands and yet did not get it.
However, the news created a melodrama in the premises of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), Nyanya, when consumers desperately stormed the area office. On seeing the crowd, officers of the AEDC hiked the price of the commodity. A single-phase meter hitherto sold for N36,991.50 now costs N39,500 while a three-phase meter formerly at N67,055.85 now costs N79,000 excluding installation.
Notwithstanding, customers already fed up with estimated billing system passed nights in the AEDC office to obtain pre-paid meters while others used the back door to get theirs. Mama Jadesola said she obtained a copy but not without bribing officials of AEDC with N5,000:
“Before I obtained the stuff, I had been disconnected for over a month. For electricity I did not consume, I was billed N189,000 for my three-bedroom bungalow. I felt it was cheaper using my generator than paying such an amount of money. But the next thing the officials did was to come and took my service wire away. So, when I heard of the pre-paid meter, I went for it at all costs. I had to pay N5,000 on top of the cost of the facility.”
Papa Justice, a businessman, lamented that he spent over N100,000 to obtain a pre-paid meter to no avail: “My brother told me that a civil defence officer who works in the office of AEDC got him a pre-paid meter he is using. I gave him N75,000 to obtain the stuff for me. Six months after, I did not see my money or the meter. Even when the meter is available, I still cannot get my money back.”
John Okafor told Daily Sun that he has been reporting daily to the area office of AEDC for a week to get a single-phase meter and the officials have been giving one excuse or the other: “Since I have waited till now, I would not want to spend extra money to obtain it like others. I heard that what is available is made by China. After they have sold the China products they would begin to sell German products which is more durable.”
However, Head, Corporate Affairs, AEDC, Mr Oyebode Fadipe, enjoined customers to report any AEDC official asking them for bribe before purchasing pre-paid meters. He told Daily Sun:
“I don’t know about confusion and bribery. There is no confusion and bribery. Single phase is about N38,000. The MAP Regulation did not say N36,000. The official price is N38,000. Customers should pay to the bank. That is the legitimate channel of payment. We don’t receive cash for it. There is no human intervention with cash. You walk to the bank yourself and pay. Nobody has asked any customer to transfer N39,000.
“Three-phase meter is about N70,000. Nobody is asking customers to pay anything more than that. The money is not for AEDC. The money is for MAP. It is not even paid into AEDC’s account. Nobody is expected to collect cash.
“Customers will always do what they want to do. People will always want to do what they want to do so that they give room for this silly accusation. If anybody is asking a bribe from you, report the person.”
On April 5, 2019, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), issued permits to Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) in accordance with section 4(3) of the MAP Regulations 2018. Section 4(3) of the MAP Regulation 2018 requires all electricity distribution licensees to engage MAPs that would assist, as investors, in closing the metering gap and thus eliminating the practice of estimated billing in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).
AEDC appointed Mojec International Limited, Meron Consortium and Turbo Engineering Limited to provide 487,000, 213,000 and 200,000 meters respectively while JEDC has appointed the Triple 7 and Mojec International Limited consortium to provide 500,000 meters. NERC directed that the rollout of meters should commence not later than May 1, 2019.
The MAP Regulation also said that customers of AEDC and JEDC should expect from the commencement of rollout date for meters to be installed in their premises within 10 working days of making payment to MAPs.
“MAPs shall charge a maximum of N36,991.50 for single-phase meters and N67,055.85 for three-phase meters. These costs are inclusive of supply, installation, maintenance and replacement of meters over its technical life. The commission shall monitor closely the rollout plan of distribution licensees and overall compliance with the regulation and various service agreements by the MAP and electricity distribution licensees,” the regulation said.
Unfortunately, the DisCos frustrated the process because of the estimated billing system, which is believed to be more beneficial than the pre-paid meter system. Following this observation and other infractions, NERC threatened to withdraw the licences of eight of the DisCos including AEDC’s.