Editor’s note: The new electricity tariff has been in the formulation since summer, with the NERC chairman recently saying the rates are still to be agreed upon by the concerned regulatory bodies. Nigerians, individually and in various groups, are, however, already dreading and protesting the alleged 40% rise in electricity cost.
Obule Ocheyenor, the Naij.com columnist, says the consequences of subjecting people to pay for services of questionable quality are unpredictable.
Nigerian electricity consumers are apprehensive about the impending take-off of a new tariff regime this November. The current tariff, N6 per kilowatt, may be increased by about 40% by some distribution companies (DISCOs), thus further pauperizing the vast majority of the people.
The new tariff would have been implemented in June this year but for the sustained outcry of beleaguered Nigerians and a pronouncement by a court restraining the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and DISCOs from going ahead with the anti-people policy.
Dr Dikko Halilu, the assistant general manager, rates and competition of NERC, had said at a stakeholders’ forum on metering code in Abuja some months ago that the commission had issued a notice to commence minor review of electricity tariffs.
Halilu said government, while considering the approval of the new tariff, would be looking at how to help the operators recover cost.
“If the price granted to electricity producers are not enough for them, then they have to show adequate justification for another increase. We are only to allow efficient cost and nothing short of that. Whatever will enable producers to recover their cost of production and a reasonable return on investment is what we will consider,” he said.
On his part, the sole administrator of NERC, Mallam Imamuddeen Talba, had also said in June that the purpose of the metering code is to improve service delivery to consumers and to ensure proper accountability through accurate metering. He said the task of the committee on metering code is to monitor its effective implementation in order to achieve accurate measurement of electricity utilisation in the country.
Rather than ensure that every consumer is provided with a pre-paid meter before implementing the new tariff regime, NERC, in cahoots with DISCOs, are putting the cart before the horse in the desperate bid to fleece electricity consumers across the country.
Angry reactions have been trailing the proposed hike, with many consumers saying increasing the price of a non-existing service is more like a broad daylight robbery, adding that this can only happen in Nigeria. Senators and members of the House of Representatives have been at the forefront of fighting for electricity consumers who have been at the mercy of shylock DISCOs.
The other day, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce from Bayelsa stood up on the floor of the Senate to speak on behalf of millions of Nigerian electricity consumers. He said the fraud called estimated billing for electricity not consumed must stop. Members of the House of Representatives have voiced out similar outrage over DISCOs’ fraudulent billing system even as their annoyingly inefficient operations persist.
Recently, workers of the DISCOs took their impunity to another level by slamming bills increased by over 600% on consumers. Thus, consumers who were paying about N2,500 per month, suddenly started receiving bills of N13,000 with effect from August this year, even without a corresponding improvement on electricity supply.
When the consumers challenged the workers, they said, rather tongue-in-cheek that. they had been given a specific target to meet at all costs and that it is the consumers that would bear the brunt, whether there is electricity supply or not. If this is not daylight robbery, what else is it?
There have been series of street protests against arbitrary charges by DISCOs across the country. Recently, the Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole, came out to condemn the obnoxious charges.
The privatisation of electricity distribution has not brought about the succour Nigerians had yearned for. What the owners of the companies are after is maximisation of profit at the expense of consumers.
The DISCOs are dithering on the issue of supplying pre-paid meters to consumers because it would rob them of the opportunity of fleecing users of analogue meters through estimated billing which is the greatest source of fraud perpetrated by the DISCOs. Through estimated or crazy billing, consumers pay for electricity not consumed. Even when there is no electricity supply to an area for months, bills are regularly brought to consumers in that area.
Nigerians should not be subjected to this brazen fraud. The National Assembly, as the last hope of an ordinary Nigerian, should muster its powers and stop the planned increase in electricity tariff until there is steady electricity supply and every consumer is provided with a pre-paid meter. Anything short of this could trigger consequences of unimaginable proportions, as Nigerians who have been pushed to the wall over this issue are bracing up for the worst.
Mr Ocheyenor wrote from Lagos.
The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Naij.com.
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