utrageous electricity bills as a result of estimated billing by Distribution Companies (DisCos) have got consumers to questioning its continued use.
Mr. Imakpor Oghenero, was shocked when his electricity bill for May was given to him and it read N8,000.
According to him, he does not use a water heater or an electric stove, “so how did the bill rise to that amount.
Mr. Oghenero lives in a one-bedroom flat in Jikwoyi, a suburb of the Federal Capital territory.
This is just one of the many agonies Nigerian electricity consumers pass through in the hands of Power Distribution Companies (DisCos).
Electricity consumers who do not have the pre-paid meter are expressing worry about increase in the amount of money charged in estimated billing system by the electricity distribution companies.
Estimated billing wahala They describe the estimated billing system as inconsistent and a method of extorting money from consumers who have not enjoyed satisfactory electricity supply.
According to them, consumers of electricity in the country who do not have pre-paid meters that ought to have been supplied by various distribution companies, pay huge amount of money for services they don’t enjoy.
In his view, Mr Kehinde Aliyu, a resident of Federal Housing Estate, Lugbe, Airports road, Abuja, said that the estimated billing by the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) would not serve customers’ interest.
He stated that in spite of the erratic power supply in the country, there was no month he had not got increase on the previous amount paid without commensurate electricity supply.
Aliyu said that he paid as much as N20, 000 and, sometimes higher, complaining that all efforts he made to correct the anomaly seemed to have failed.
Similarly, Mrs Rita Umeh, a public affairs analyst in Lagos, observed that the distribution companies gave outrageous bills, whether or not the consumers enjoyed power supply.
“The Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC) will give us 18 hours electricity a day, and send us a bill of between N18, 000 and N20, 000 per month.
“When complaints or petitions are sent to the IKEDC on such developments, it will say it doesn’t entertain complaints and it will insist that the complainant or petitioner should wait until they have pre-paid meters.
“Is there no template on how we can be billed before the pre-paid meters are made available to avoid the way customers visit IKEDC customer-care centre to lodge complaints?’’, he said.
Another customer, Mr Segun Adeniyi, an accountant with a bakery in Abuja, said that his bakery paid as much as N400, 000 per month based on estimated billing system, complaining that the bill affected his business.
“There is no light and we keep paying for what we do not use; every week, I buy diesel fuel worth N350, 000 and I still pay huge a huge amount of money on estimated bills monthly,’’ he said.
However, customers have been asking what it will take and how long will it be to acquire pre-paid meters so that customers’ complaints on estimated billing will be addressed.
Mrs Catherine Dauda, a resident of Abuja, stated that all her efforts to get pre-paid meter were futile, noting that she could no longer cope with the estimated billing system.
According to her, AEDC often brings as much as N20, 000 in her one-bedroom flat for fluctuating power supply that could not justify the amount of money he paid.
Dauda, therefore, called on the Federal Government to intervene and provide pre-paid meter to customers and assuage the condition of Nigerians in that regard.
NASS to the rescue? Irrespective of customers’ complaints, observers commend the National Assembly for making spirited move to help Nigerians out of the predicament through a bill that will criminalise the estimated billing system.
T h e y r e c a l l t h a t M r Fe m i Gbajabiamila, the Leader of the House of Representatives, sponsored a bill to amend the electric power sector reform act to prohibit and criminalise estimated billing by electric distribution companies.
The bill is also to provide for compulsory installation of pre-paid meters to all power consumers in Nigeria and for related matters.
The House of Representatives recently noted that the practice of estimated billing of electricity customers by the Electric Distribution Companies (DISCOs) must be abrogated and criminalised.
Gbajabiamila, who sponsored the bill, said the legislature could not sit and allow DISCOs to cheat electricity consumers with estimated billing system.
The metering dilemma Similarly, Mr Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, called for the licensing of people whose sole business would be to supply meters as a means of resolving the problem of pre-paid meters.
He said that the federal government was concerned about estimated billing and the consequences it has on consumers, noting that there was need to eliminate estimated billing and use pre-paid meters.
Calls for termination of DisCos contract But Commissioner for Finance and Management Services of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Mr.
Nathan Shatti, said “a regulation that deals with estimated billing already exists in the power sector and another law on the same matter could lead to a complete disorder in the industry’’.
M r. Dr Bu n m i Aw oye m i , a lawyer, similarly called on President Muhammadu Buhari for an outright termination of the licences of DISCOs operators.
He observed that if DISCOs were still handling power distribution in the country, Nigeria would not be able to solve the myriad of problem of power distribution.
“Most of their estimated bills are extremely outrageous and they are pauperizing the citizens; some people spend over 70 per cent of their income on paying estimated bills and buying petrol and diesel to run electricity generating machines,’’ he said.
He, nonetheless, suggested the federal government should select competent international companies to manage the 11 distribution companies and pay them a percentage of the profits made from the sector.