Mega City

Agony of Nigerians without prepaid metres

Ramota Yusuf who just recently started living at her own house on Kampala Odo, off Kampala Street, Olambe, Ogun State, is one of the residents in the community that have been lamenting about the huge money they spend monthly on electricity consumption. Like most people in her situation, she believes that she was being exploited and extorted by the Electricity Distribution Company (Disco) officials because she does not have a prepaid metre. She said: “Ever since I built my house, I’ve been renting it out, and even though my tenants paid the electricity bill faithfully in my absence, the amount allocated to my house continued to be outrageous.

When my tenants vacated my house in 2018, I wrote to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) office in Olambe to suspend the bills being sent to my house since no one was living there. They didn’t stop, and when I started living in my house last year, the bill was already over N100, 000. I applied for a prepaid metre and after fulfilling all the conditions, I was told that there were no more prepaid metres and I had no choice but to wait until it would be available.” Yusuf’s experience is similar to what a lot of Nigerians are passing through in the hands of DISCOs.

Buildings without prepaid metres are forced to accept an estimated billing system, which means that consumers are given bills arbitrarily by DISCO officials. Most Nigerians affected have complained of paying for electricity more than they have consumed. Mrs. Oladenik, who lives at Ojulari Street, Sango-Ota, Ogun State said that DISCO hardly supplies power, but continued to bring exorbitant bills every month.

Exorbitant bills

She said: “I applied for a prepaid metre in 2020 when the metres were brought to our community, but till date I have not received mine. Rather, DISCO officials continued to charge me. I get as high as between N10, 000 and N13, 000 every month. I even stopped using my electric cooker, iron and other appliances, hoping it would reduce, but I still got the same amount.

“Right now, it has become unbearable for me. I was charged N14, 176 in December, 2021, and N12, 171 in January 2022. I don’t understand what is going on! The buildings in the street close to ours have received prepaid metres, but not us. We kept hoping it would get to us soon. We all want prepaid metres, because with it, you get to pay for what you consume.

I leave home for the office every morning; to return in the evening time, so I don’t really use power that much, yet the bills still remain high.” According to Oladenik, despite the persistent power outage, her monthly bills have continued to be outrageous. She also condemned the attitude of DISCO officials in bringing bills without first finding out what consumers use monthly. Mrs. Jimoh who lives at No. 11 Inaolaji Street, Sango-Ota, Ogun State, also shared her frustration with the unreasonable bill. She said: “I usually get a bill of between N20, 000 and N25, 000.

I got a bill of N25, 000 in November 2021 and N20, 746 in December 2021. I have registered for the prepaid metre since 2019, and still have not received it till date. It’s almost three years now since they promised to bring the free prepaid metre, which they have failed to bring, and we kept on asking them, but we got the same responses that it would soon get to us. There are times when the transformer would be faulty for weeks and still they’ll continue to bring bills. This makes me wonder if they shared the bills according to consumption or according to how it suits them.

There was a time I heard they had started sharing the metre, but it had not got to us here. But we are hoping and praying it will get to us.” The struggle to secure a prepaid metre is not peculiar to Ogun State; it is also happening in Lagos State. Our findings revealed that there are people in the Centre of Excellence, who are complaining over the high rate of bills they are getting even with the fact that they do not really use appliances that consume much electricity.

The Chairman of Oba Ogunji Mechanic Village, Ogba, Lagos State, Mr. Habeeb Oluwarotimi Balogun, said: “The Ikeja Electricity officials came to us late last year and said we would be given free prepaid metres that we should begin to plan the exact point to mount them. They also asked us to get wires for the connection. We asked them to come back, but they never showed up after their visit.

We went to their office to inquire on how to get the metres, and we were told that they had been diverted to somewhere else. We started getting high bills in October 2021 which was N260, 000, our light was disconnected after four days then we made a payment of N100, 000, but the payment was not confirmed. They said they did not receive the payment so we made another payment of N200, 000 and our light was reconnected and we’ve been getting high bills since then.” Balogun explained that the electricity was important for security reasons so they could not afford to get disconnected.

He added: “What we used here does not really consume much electricity. There’s only one car oven baker and three electrical welders, while the rest of us use bulbs only. We made it mandatory for everyone to use a 15 watt bulb and we also disconnected our halogen lights so as not to consume a lot of electricity.

The November bill was sent to us by December and we were charged N424, 000 with the fact that our electricity was disconnected for three weeks. We only used electricity for one week, so we paid N100, 000 on November 4, 2021, out of N424, 000. Our power got disconnected on January 4, which was 10 days after we made the N100, 000 payment. We just pleaded with them to reduce the bills because we are not using appliances that consume much electricity. We feel it will be better if we are able to get the prepaid metres.”

Awaiting metres

Incidentally, the government has been promising for quite some time to roll out roughly six million metres in order to help make them available to end users. They have also warned the companies involved not to charge above the approved prices for the items which were increased in November last year. In the circular titled ‘Review of the unit price of end-use meters under the Meter Asset Provider and National Mass Metering Regulations’, the government stated that the upward review of meter prices was due to “the recent changes in macroeconomic parameters.”

As stated in the circular, the regulator raised the price of a single-phase meter from the current cost of N44, 896.17 to a revised rate of N58, 661.69. While the price of a three-phase meter was increased from the current cost of N82, 855.19 to a revised rate of N109, 684.36. According to NERC, the price review became effective from Monday, November 15, 2021. The circular read: “In arriving at the approved unit price, the Commission had, in particular, only considered changes in foreign exchange and inflation since the last review of June 2020. “This price review is subject to change upon the conclusion of the procurement process under phase 1 of the National Mass Metering Program. This price review is effective from 15th November 2021.”

 

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