The media was awash last week with the news of the introduction of a new policy that seeks to liberalise the electricity metering system and give the Nigerian consumer a fair deal in the purchase and use of electricity in the country. According to the report, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has introduced the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) Regulations 2018 which is aimed at “eliminating the estimated billing practice, attracting private investment into the provision of metering services and closing gap through accelerated meter roll out in the Nigerian Electricity supply industry”.
We commend the NERC for this audacious policy which will come into effect from April 3, 2018. The new policy requires the distribution companies (Discos) to engage the services of Meter asset providers to be able to meet their metering targets to consumers and reduce significantly the current regime of consumer rip off called estimated billing
The owners of the newly licensed discos pledged to provide over million meters during the five year period beginning from November 2013. But few months to the fifth anniversary of the Discos, there is still a yawning metering gap which was at about 4.7 million as at December 2017.
For selfish reasons, the Discos have resisted the liberalization of metering of consumers and have indeed frustrated all efforts to ensure seamless metering across the country.
For one, they have refused to patronize certified local manufacturers of meters preferring instead to make private arraignments with foreign manufacturers with dire implications for foreign exchange and employment for teaming Nigerian youths.
Two, the Discos have also given excuses of lack of enough capital to execute the metering project, instead they have canvassed for increase in electricity tariff as one of the pre-conditions for improved electricity supply and metering of households.
Nigerians welcomed the privatisation of power generation and distribution in the country with much hope and enthusiasm. There was the believe that the six new power generation companies(Gencos) and 12 power distribution companies(Discos) will give vent to the Biblical injunction “Let there be Light.”
On the contrary Nigerians seem to be worse off since the privatisation process in 2013.
To be fair, there has been marked improvement in generation in power reaching a peak of 7000mw at a time. Same cannot be said of distribution as we hear and read of Discos rejecting power supplied to them either because they do not have the carrying capacity or they cannot pay for the quantity being supplied. All these show lack of readiness both technical and financial on the part of the Discos to handle the power project.
Inadvertently, consumers have been bearing brunt of these inefficiencies on the part of the Discos as they are compelled to pay for electricity not consumed under the estimated billing system.
This is in addition to the fact that most communities are forced to transfer power assets built through communal efforts such as transformers, electricity poles and cables to the Discos without any compensation before they can be connected. If this was the case during the era of government ownership of power generation and distribution companies, what do we call this in era of privatisation? It is a business aberration.
Henceforth NERC should ensure that communities should enjoy their investment in the power value chain through a period of moratorium say six to 12 months when they should enjoy zero billings for power consumed.
We urge the NERC to follow through the new Meter Asset Provider Regulations 2018 and ensure its full implementation and compliance by the Discos. Any Disco that failed to comply with these policy should be seriously sanctioned and even face withdrawal of operating licenses. We cannot continue to hold down the development of Nigeria’s economy through inefficiency in the power sector.