Banks’ gesture on prepaid meters

Recent media report to the effect that Mojec Meter Assets Management Company, a subsidiary of Mojec International Limited, has entered into partnership with Keystone Bank Limited, Unity Bank, Zenith
Bank and five other banks in Nigeria to provide retail financing for rollout of prepaid meters to its customers within the coverage area of its partner Distribution Companies (DISCOs) across the country is
a welcome development.

The partnership announcement was made at a press conference and Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony in Lagos between Mojec and the partner banks. The partner banks include Keystone Bank, Unity Bank, Zenith Bank, Polaris Bank, First Bank, Wema Bank, Sterling Bank and First Option Microfinance Bank.

This is a major step ahead of the commencement of the muchanticipated Meter Asset Providers (MAP) scheme.
MAP is a scheme approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) through a regulation meant for the provision, supply, installation and maintenance of end-user meters by Meter
Asset Providers with a view to fast-tracking a closure of the metering
gap and end estimated billing in Nigeria.

Speaking at the event, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mojec International Limited, Ms. Chantelle Abdul, disclosed that the company was determined to bridge the metering gap in the power sector by ensuring provision of top-quality electricity meters to consumers in Nigeria.

In his remarks after the MoU signing, the Acting Managing Director/CEO, Keystone Bank Limited, Mr. Abubakar Danlami
Sule, represented by Mr. Yemi Odusanya, Executive Director, Corporate Bank and South Directorate, shared the bank’s driving motivation for the partnership. “The importance of energy in the growth of businesses and for the livelihood of homes in Nigeria cannot be overemphasised.

“Energy cost is by all standards the major cost line in most homes and businesses. The scheme is set to eradicate the unnecessary prevalence of estimated billing which deprived the national economy of funds which otherwise could be deployed into other productive use.

We are, therefore, excited to be part of this initiative to bring electricity to homes and businesses at the most prudent cost, putting households and business in control of their expenditure pattern.”

It is instructive that this partnership is coming on the heels of the appeal by the Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) to electricity distribution companies to make prepaid meters available to Nigerians. In a workshop in Abuja recently, Mr Joe Ajaero, NUEE General Secretary, said that the estimated billing in the power sector
has done more harm than good. According to him, people have been driven out of their small scale businesses because they cannot pay the current tariff as the companies have refused to supply prepaid meters.

“You cannot tell me to pay N20, 000 at the end of the month as my bill for electricity without any kind of measurement in terms of consumption hours that I used within the period.

So, without prepaid meter, it is a kind of exploitation and electricity cannot be sold without a measurement which is the meter. I want to call on the federal government to have a re-think in that direction to ensure that
the meters are made available to all”, he said.

Ajaero, who is also the President of the United Labour Congress (ULC), said privatisation has a negative effect on the power sector. “Privatisation has not done any good to this country, but rather it has
created more problems, especially in the power sector and Nigerians
are yet to see efficient service delivery”.

Blueprint observes that the issue of estimated billing of electricity consumers in the country due to the non-provision of prepaid meters by the distribution companies has raised serious controversies,
leading to the passage of a bill to criminalise the system by the House of Representatives in January this year. In the main, the Electricity
Power Reform Act (amendment) Bill 2018 prohibits and criminalises estimated billing. The proposed law compels electricity distribution companies to give prepaid meters to applicants within 30 days. The
bill also prescribes a one-year jail term and a fine of N1 million for

The House Majority Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, who sponsored the bill, argued that estimated billing should only be used by the electricity distribution companies in situations where a consumer’s meter could not be accessed by the service provider. “Any regulation that allows estimation of bills when the actual consumption can be ascertained is against natural justice and equity and should not stand,” Gbajabiamila said.

We align with proponents of this bill, which has the potency of halting the exploitation and fleecing of Nigerians who had to grapple with the twin problems of estimated billing and poor services, six years after privatisation. It is regrettable that since taking over in 2013, investors in the power sector have failed to meet one of the
key requirements of the performance agreement, namely, to provide
Nigerians with prepaid meters within five years to ensure that they had access only to what they paid for. We, therefore, urge NERC to swiftly stem the ugly tide by being more stringent in playing its
enforcement and regulatory role in order to protect Nigerians from further exploitation by ‘Shylock’ investors in the electricity sector.

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