By Elizabeth Uwandu
The outcry by Nigerians over outrageous estimated billing system by the Electricity Distribution Companies Discos may soon be over as members of the House of Representatives recently passed a bill that seeks to criminalise estimated billing in the country.
Bill estimation is a longstanding practice used by power providers when an actual meter reader is not available for billing purposes.
However, accusations are rife that the Discos have deliberately abandoned meter reading for the imposition of unimaginable (crazy) bills on users all for the purpose of wrecking in more revenue without rendering commensurate service.
Femi Gbajabiamila, sponsor of the bill and majority leader of the house, said, "It is not justifiable to continuously charge consumers for power not consumed."
The bill passed recently during members of the lower chamber’s deliberation on the report of its committee on power. The bill which was put on vote by Yusuf Lasun, deputy speaker of the house, would among other things criminalise estimated billing and make the installation of prepaid meters compulsory for all power consumers in Nigeria.
However, since the passage of the bill, some stakeholders such as Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing; the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) have opposed the bill, noting that the bill would worsen the electricity situation in the country.
Fashola explained that the bill could crumble the electricity sector, noting that the financial challenges of metering must first be addressed.
He added that “I take it that we all know what the core mandate is. Their (DisCos) core mandate is to supply energy. My view is that let new players be licensed to have the supply of meters as their core mandate to take the load off the DisCos.
“Energy theft and meter bypass must be addressed too by prescribing heavy penalties against offenders.” Power Minister said.
Meanwhile, Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN officials are currently going round to take inventory of all existing Old Meters in view of the February 28th deadline from NERC.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission mandated that all DISCO's Electricity Distribution Companies should provide and install Electronic Prepaid Meter to all subscribers Free of any charge the said date or face severe sanctions.
Chairman, NERC lamented that Nigerians have suffered enough from being robbed by faceless corrupt officials via the inhuman estimated billing system where they pay for what they do not use.
" It is better to have the prepaid meter and not have light than to have light without a prepaid meter.
"The logic is simple, if you have the prepaid meter it means you will only pay for what you use. No estimated bills, no cutting of light, no stealing from you, no-nonsense and if they don't supply power FINE! they will not make any money from you." He noted.
According to NERC ...Our problem with PHCN in Nigeria is not power supply. Our problem is internal administration (The running of the company). The solution is proper administration.
"With prepaid meter, PHCN will sit up and begin to perform because they will know that if they don't supply power they will not make free money.
"They know this, that's why they continue to sabotage the whole thing so that they will continue with the robbery which is the estimated billing system, overcharging users and getting fat like the telecoms companies, who have to supply network or else no money for them if people do not use up their airtime and data.
"Nigerians must stop asking for power supply, that is not the solution. Insist on your prepaid meter, it is your right and the solution to the massive looting going on among the Electricity Distribution Companies." He pointed.