The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) has faulted two major newspapers reports indicting all the power distribution companies in Nigeria for allegedly ripping off consumers across the country.
The International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) and Daily Trust Newspapers had reported exclusively that the Discos have engaged in consumer rip-off through estimated billings and the unrealistic Tariff Band Methodology, where consumers pay cost-reflective tariffs and still do not get commensurate electricity supply.
But the Head, Corporate Communications at Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, Oyebode Fadipe said the metering of all new customers is not practicable under Nigeria’s power distribution circumstances.
He was speaking during an anti-corruption radio program, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE on RADIO, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, Wednesday in Abuja.
The investigative reports had also indicted the DisCos of flouting government policy on estimated billing and failing on its promise to electricity customers on cost-reflective tariffs.
But Fadipe disagreed saying that estimated billing is not illegal and that the DisCos don’t supply meters but companies licensed by NERC.
In his clarification, he said: “The fact is that even if AEDC has all the meters that all customers require today, we cannot meter all of them today.
“let us look at the practicality of the situation on the ground, if you say you are not connecting customers as they apply for connection and the customers go to connect themselves, where will the DisCos get the money to pay for the energy that has been consumed by the customer,” Fadipe asked.
Reacting during the programme, the National Secretary, Nigeria Electricity Consumers Advocacy Network (NECAN), Uket Obonga said that there is massive fraud going on in the power sector.
Obonga averred that estimated billing was not bad or illegal if only the DisCos can comply with the estimated billing methodology. He noted that in the case of electricity consumers in Nigeria, DisCos saw estimation as an aberration and the low hanging fruit, “they can sit in their offices and write any amount and give to customers.”
According to him, NECAN receives complaints on electricity issues from all over the country, “I can tell you authoritatively that there are some DisCos where Nigerians have paid for meters since 2014/2015 and have not been metered up till this moment.”
Obonga added that until the power sector gets it right with an accuracy of data, the present rip off of Nigerians on cost-reflective tariffs will persist.
He lampooned the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) for watching on while DisCos flout electricity laws and called for the restructuring of NERC and the sack of the current management.
“The way forward is to restructure NERC, make NERC more functional, remove all the guys that are there, we tag the current NERC ‘a captured regulator’, and until you get the right kind of people who are patriotic, who put national interests above self-interest, we will continue to be in this mess,” Obonga stated.
Nigerians and stakeholders who called into the programme narrated their ordeals and frustration with service delivery by the DisCos.
The Chairman of Pegi community development Association in Kuje, Abuja, who called into the programme also blamed NERC for failing to play a watchdog role.
“NERC ought to be the watchdog to these distribution companies, they give a ruling and the ruling is not adhered to by DisCos and there is no sanction or respite to the customers,” Aderbigbe lamented.
Earlier, ICIR reporter, Ihuoma Chiedozie revealed the investigation was conducted in Abuja the nation’s capital, parts of Niger and Nasarawa states. He said their findings depict a knowledge gap among electricity consumers.
Daily Trust reporter, Chidimma Okeke also disclosed that the investigation was conducted in Kano, Enugu, Lagos, plateau and the FCT, adding that the investigation was aimed at drawing the attention of NERC to the corruption perpetrated by the DisCos against customers.
The investigations were conducted as part of the Regulators Monitoring Programme (REMOP) of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ).
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program is supported by the MacArthur Foundation