By Cosmas Omegoh (Lagos), Emmanuel Adeyemi (Lokoja), Billy Graham Abel, (Yola), Isaac Anumihe (Abuja), Gyang Bere (Jos), Oluseye Ojo (Ibadan), Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye Lucky (Benin), Sola Ojo (Kaduna), and Geoffrey Anyanwu (Enugu)
At the moment, having electricity meter, particularly the pre-paid, at every home, looks like a luxury. Everything about the idea is seemingly controversial. Many who have been yearning for the prized item cannot get it and don’t even know how to go about it. To them, to be metered is a hard science or so it seems. They are unhappy with the so-called estimated bills being dumped on them by the various Distribution Companies (DISCOs) across the country, insisting that the practice is fraught with fraud. But they don’t know how to get out of the maze.
Ironically, there are individuals who are refusing the meters, it was learnt. They are either used to the old ways or don’t want to pay for what they have consumed.
These are some of the twist and turns the various electricityDistribution Companies across the country have been trying to explain. But everything points to the huge burden facing the smooth distribution of electricity meters across the country.
It took the intervention of the Senate lately for the DISCOs to say what they know and how far they have fared and failed with the meter-for-all initiative.
The Senate at its committee level on March 26, 2021, was furious that the Federal Government target of ensuring that over six million homes have meters had been without progress. It blast the Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the DISCOs for poor performance of the Mass Metering Project despite a whopping N33.4 billion sunk into the project by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Senator Gabriel Suswam, PDP Benue North East, who led the Senate Committee on Power, delivered the non-performance verdict in Abuja during an interactive session with officials of the NERC and the various DISCOs.
NERC Chairman, Sanusi Garba, an engineer, who struggled to explain how his agency had fared with the project, disclosed that it had been fighting to deliver one million meters to houses between October 2020 and April 2021, admitting that the scheme had only recorded 13 per cent implementation as of March 19, 2021.
He said: “While 403, 000 out of the targeted one million meters, have been delivered to the various DISCOs, only 127, 000 have been installed, representing 13 per cent performance,” citing a load of challenges.
Recall that the Federal Government in a bid to ensure that 6 million households have meter across five years, last November, rolled out the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP). Earlier, the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) was lunched which allowed for manufacturers/vendors to procure and install the meters.
But the slow pace of the free meter initiative had led to the Federal Government considering both schemes running concurrently. And by that, meters would be procured and supplied through the NMMP scheme. And this would allow the DISCOs to procure meters directly from local manufacturers and then have a new contract that will encompass both installation and maintenance.
But for the average electricity consumer, every talk about metering which does end in delivering the equipment, and closing the chapter on estimated billing is gaseous. This much was agreed to by the Senate, which was emphatic that the pace of delivery was poor and unacceptable.
Against this backdrop, our correspondents reached out to many of the DISCOs to find out how they have been grappling with the task before them and their responses were revealing.
Customers reject meters as Yola DISCO meters 434, 206, targets all
The Yola Electricity Distribution Company (YEDC) says it has already metered about 434, 206 customers across its business unit of Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba and Borno states, adding that it has sights at metering all consumers in the area.
The company said that its ongoing aggressive metering was in line with the Federal Government’s NMME, which targets to ensure that consumers within Yola, Taraba, Yobe and Maiduguri are all metered as soon as possible.
This was made known by Kingsley Nkemneme, the senior manager, Corporate Communications, YEDC.
Nkemneme explained that the company aims to meter every customer registered in its network in order to ensure Energy Audit Accountability.
He said: “YEDC has already begun an aggressive metering across all our business units targeting all customers in all the states under our business franchise except for Borno State where we have been having power challenges for the past eight weeks.
“For Maiduguri, we have meters on ground, but we have not been able to kickstart the process of metering due to the power challenges in the area.
“This is the third month since we began the aggressive metering of customers and we have been able to meter over 435, 206 customers and we are looking forward to doing more.
“This metering project is a Federal Government project called the National Mass Metering Exercise programme.”
On the challenges encountered so far, Nkemneme said: “Surprisingly, we have been having a strange problem of customers rejecting meters.
“We have had incidences where we would install a meter and after few weeks, the customers would come around demanding that we remove them, but the law demands that we disconnect them altogether.
“The problem with most consumers is that they still maintain their old habits of electricity consumption without restraint. Most of them do not want to pay for what they consume; they use a lot of power-draining appliances like electric cookers, boilers, etc, so they usually complain that the meters consume (record) too much, but it is actually their rate of consumption.
“The meters installed are done by accredited companies who have to satisfy the standards of the Nigerian Electricity Management Service Agency (NEMSA)
“So, consumers should embrace the change and accept the meters and adjust their habits of electricity usage to save power and adopt the habit of using more energy-efficient equipment.”
Nkemneme assured consumers that the ongoing metering exercise is absolutely free of charge and they are not expected to pay anything, noting that the company is doing its best to see that everyone within its business franchise is metered appropriately.
Abuja DISCO affected by COVID-19, meters 101,000 in Kogi
The General Manager, Corporate Communications of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), Mr Oyebode Fadipe told Sunday Sun that AEDC is expected to meter about 600,000 customers out of its about 900,000 targeted customers.
“We have barely scratched the surface. The challenges are systemic. COVID-19 has impacted significantly on it. There is no doubt about it. Another challenge is that supply is not meeting with demand. Demand is more than supply. So, that is the challenge we are trying to solve,” he said.
He listed some of the challenges they are having as funding and foreign exchange, saying that these issues had led to constant demand for tariff reviews.
“Funding has always been an issue in the power sector because the power sector has only one source of income and that is the sale of electricity. So, that is what has brought about constant review of tariff and things like that.
“One of the things meter providers have to go through is forex. Right now you know what the dollar is to the naira. The reason I called it systemic is because whatever is happening to the general economy is also affecting the power sector,” he said.
On the deadline for the distribution of meters, Fadipe explained that the distribution is a 60-month or five-year project. So, it is a question of monitoring how much one is doing in a year.
“The National Mass Metering Project is a 60-month project. It is a five-year thing. So, it is a question of monitoring the extent you have done every year. Are you on track? These are the issues,” he explained.
He told our correspondent that AEDC had allocated 101, 000 prepaid meters to its customers in Kogi State alone.
According to him, out of that figure allocated for Phase Zero, AEDC had installed 30,496 covering the six area offices located in Lokoja, Kabba, Ayingba, Okene, Idah and Ankpa to be distributed to the customers .
However, it was learnt that over 456,000 customers have so far applied for the prepaid meters across the state, but Lokoja the state capital has the largest chunk of installed meters.
Fadipe noted that AEDC could have concluded the metering in Phase Zero in February, but meter providers went on strike because they were yet to be paid by the CBN.
He said although there were serious pressures from customers to provide more prepaid meters, the company was doing its best to ensure that every demand was attended to, adding that “we are still installing.”
Fadipe said that the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) had, however, been cancelled by the Federal Government and now replaced with National Mass Metering, NMM.
Jos DISCO installs over 30,000 meters, targets 80,000
The Jos Electricity Distribution Company said that it has given over 30,000 prepaid meters to its customers in Plateau, Benue, Bauchi and Gombe states.
This was part of the efforts to end the era of estimated billing and ensure customers pay for the services supplied to them.
The company’s Head, Corporate Communications, Dr Friday Adakole Elijah, disclosed that the company had received about 80,000 prepaid meters and the installation was ongoing.
“So far, we have not had any major challenges with the installation of the prepaid meters; the process is going on very smoothly, and there is no resistance from the customers.”
He noted that prepaid meters are the only parameter to measure the quantity of power consumed by the customers, which he said would strengthen the relationship between customers and the company.
Elijah said that the company identified streets in each of their states of coverage and ensured that all houses within the area were supplied with meters.
He said that customers who refused to be installed with prepaid meters within the mapped areas would not be supplied with electricity.
“We have a situation where prepaid meters were installed in some houses in parts of Benue State, but before we came back, the meters had been removed.
“The meters are good; we have not received any complaint from anybody, but some people don’t just want to pay for the power they consume. We have customers in some areas that are demanding the prepaid meters while a few others don’t want it.”
Elijah insisted that the installation of meters across the area of their coverage would continue on daily basis until the 80,000 meters received are exhausted.
We can’t reveal progress –Benin DISCO
The Benin Electricity Distribution Company said that it would take a while for it to assess and reveal information about the number of prepaid meters given out in its sphere of jurisdiction and the progress so far recorded on the Federal Government’s promised free prepaid meters.
The Assistant Public Relations Manager of the DISCO, Gloria Mbagwu, told Sunday Sun that it would take quite some time for such information to be made available.
BEDC had several months ago announced that it had mapped out its installation plan to distribute prepaid meters in phases in Edo State.
It followed up by requesting households to visit its offices serving their area to list electrical appliances in their homes.
Beyond that, there is nothing on ground to show that BEDC has started implementing its prepaid meters roll out plan.
We deployed over 150,000 meters in 4 years –Kaduna DISCO
The management of the Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company on its part said that it had in the past four years successfully deployed over 150,000 units of prepaid meters to its customers.
Kaduna DISCO has the franchise states of Kaduna, Kebi, Sokoto and Zamfara where these meters have been spread.
Its Head of Unit, Media and Community Relations, Idris Muhammad, told our correspondent that the National Mass Metering initiative which kicked off in November last year had been launched in all the four franchise states.
He said: “Over 21,000 units have so far been deployed through the Meter Assets Providers Scheme.
“Over 10,000 meters have been deployed through the National Mass Metering initiative and a total of 31,000 meters were deployed between November 2020 and now.
“All in all, over 150,000 meters were deployed to the company’s franchise states of Kaduna, Kebi, Sokoto and Zamfara in the last four years.”
He, however, hinted that customers refusing meters, meters bye-pass/tampered with or deliberate compromising by some delinquent customers, inability to separate multiple houses/block of flats with one account due to unavailability of SIM cards and shortage of meters from vendors/suppliers are some of the major challenges facing the company.
Ibadan DISCO distributes over 30,000 meters
The Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), established on November 1, 2013, said it has about two million customers.
It noted that it has the largest franchise area in Nigeria spanning through Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Kwara and parts of Niger, Ekiti and Kogi states.
It recalled that it was in a bid to bridge metering gap in Nigeria, and also cushion the effect of the Service Reflective Tariff on electricity consumers that the Federal Government introduced a meter rollout scheme under the NMMP.
The Chief Operating Officer of the company, Mr John Ayodele, an engineer, also said that Ibadan DISCO commenced the rollout of free meters to customers under NMMP by the third week of November, 2020.
He explained that in the first phase of the programme that ran till the end of December 2020, it rolled out over 100,000 prepaid meters to customers, including those who were duly registered, who had passed the technical evaluation and paid under the MAP scheme.
“Part of the objectives also includes the elimination of estimated billing, improving network monitoring capability and strengthening the local content in meter manufacturing in Nigeria,” he said.
The company’s Head, Branding and Corporate Communication, Angela Olarenwaju, said that over 30,000 customers had been metered under NMMP, free metering programme of the Federal Government. She explained that MAP was in operation when the Federal Government introduced NMMP, adding that MAP, under which customers paid for meters, was suspended since the introduction of NMMP.
On the recorded demands for prepaid meters based on MAP programme, and number of meters installed so far across the area, Olarenwaju stated that about 112,000 people registered for meters under the MAP programme, while over 36,000 paid and have all been metered.
According to her, “over 66,000 customers have been metered since the inception of MAP and NMMP.”
On the major challenges hindering the rollout of the new meters, being sponsored by the Federal Government, to bridge the metering gap, Olarenwaju stated that the Ibadan DISCO had many unregistered consumers in its network and a number of customers were rejecting being metered.
She also identified as part of the challenges: the fact that “many houses are poorly wired and hence cannot be metered until corrected.”
She added that the company also had “restricted access to some customers’ premises to install meters.”
We ‘re yet to determine status of metered customers –Enugu DISCO
Enugu, the headquarters of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) which covers the entire Southeast states, doesn’t seem to know the current status of the distribution and installation of prepaid meters across the zone.
The Head, Corporate Communications of EEDC, Mr Emeka Ezeh, could also not give information on the total number of customers served (based on account numbers) or the recorded demand for prepaid meters, based on MAP programme and number of meters installed so far across the zone.
He only spoke on their challenges, saying that he was yet to have the required data.
He said: “The major challenge is that the funds needed for procuring the meters was loan from CBN, and that had to be processed, after which the meters were ordered for.
“We all know that components of these meters are sourced overseas, and that will take some time before they get into the country and cleared from the ports.”
We ‘ve metered over 25,000 households –Ikeja DISCO
The spokesman of Ikeja DISCO, Felix Ofulue used the opportunity to dispel some rumour about the meter hoarding, saying that it was all lies.
“We have had stories that DISCOs are warehousing meters. But the truth is that no one has given any meters to the DISCOs to keep anywhere.
“The position is that the Federal Government through the CBN has provided funds for the purchase of meters. So, there are those who are handling the metering aspect of the programme. They are the meter manufacturers and vendors; they are the ones who receive money to procure the meters and install them for customers. It is not in our hands. Our role here is to collaborate with them and put forward the people on our network for metering.”
He explained that “the first phase which is called the First Zero is the national MAP metering programme targeting one million meters. That number has been distributed across the 11 DISCOs. So Ikeja DISCO got 106,701 meters; of course, that does not cover our metering deficit anyway.
“So, we now said okay, how do we share these meters? Let us consider those who have been heavily impacted by the tariff reviews that took place in November. Of course, you know there are (people on) different bands: A to E. So, we decided to share the meters among those people; it did not cover that number. But that was how we continued until we covered everybody in our network.
“But there must be a defined parameter for the distribution of the meters, otherwise it would be a rowdy affair. So, we started with those who had been heavily impacted and cascaded downwards. By those heavily impacted we mean people on bands A,B,C, D and E. People on Band A, their tariff is N50 plus, while those on E, their tariff N21 plus. It is not a function of how much you earn; it is a function of the availability (of power) you get. So, if you live in an area where you have 20 hours (supply) and above, and now pay N51 as tariff, it does not necessarily mean you live in an area where there are rich people. People in B pay N40 plus, B and C pay N30 plus. So, if you look at those who don’t have meters, there is a likelihood that their estimated bills will be higher because they are on A and B.
“So, out of these 106,000 meters, we have 106,701 households scheduled for their distribution.
“Of that number, we have done 24,000 -25,000. Recall that what we are getting does not cover our metering deficit. Of course, there are a lot more households that have not registered with us yet. So, we must have a rational way of distributing until we cover the number of households who are on our network.”
He noted that “the challenge we are having is that the number of people who are out of that scheduled list are not coming out to register because registration is the prerequisite for metering. They have their different reasons. But again, we are also presurising them and pushing out information so that they can come forward and register so that we can complete installation. The people already registered are getting sms telling them that they are scheduled for metering and officers will be coming for installation.”
He revealed that “we have about one million deficit as at the last count. But the number has been reducing since metering has been going on.
“The national metering figure is six million, and government intends to supply five million under this national metering programme and we have done one million. So, if in the next three years we are able to do six million, we would have covered everyone in our network. But of course, there are developments everyday. But as those ones are coming, we meter them.
He also said that one other problem the network was having is “the conditions for metering is that people have to separate their lines. We are familiar with a situation where three flats are sharing one meter and bill. But we have to break that and let each have a separate account. That is, they have to pay their bills. But a lot of people are comfortable with paying from that general bill. Some people have apathy for getting a meter because they have the belief that they will pay more. That is part of the reasons people don’t want to register. But there are those who have registered who are not on the list of those who will be metered now. Unfortunately, people are not registering as we want them to register.”