By Ebele Orakpo
Following allegations by customers of illegal disconnections, extortion, taking away customers’ cables, crazy bills and failure to deliver metres already paid for, officials of Nigeria’s electricity utility company, Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), have advised customers to always direct their complaints to the appropriate quarters rather than patronising touts.
In a recent chat with Vanguard in Lagos, the Public Relations Officer, Eko Zone of PHCN, Mr. Godwin Idemudia said customers should always direct their complaints to the appropriate authorities and they would be sure of the problems being addressed satisfactorily. He assured that all those who have paid for prepayment metres from 2007 to date, are being supplied because right now, the company has enough in store for as many as have paid.
Speaking on the issue of disconnections and carting away cables in some cases, Idemudia said: “Yes it happens only when the customer tries to bypass the metre. You use prepayment metre and then you use electric iron, electric cooker, you leave your lights on when you don’t need them and the metre is reading. Of course consumption will be high yet you feel you are being charged so much so you call an electrician to connect you directly, bypassing the metre. When we discover such, we disconnect the customer. We have a system whereby we monitor all these.”
Corroborating this assertion, the Business Manager, Festac Business Unit, Engr. G. K Ikperite said: “Yes, prepayment metres can be disconnected if there is proof of the customer tampering with the metre. At times, they call in electricians to see whether their metres are working well or the rate of consumption is okay. If they feel it’s too much, they want to tamper with it to reduce the consumption so there are lots of things that people can do with our metres. If in the course of monitoring we discover such, of course we disconnect and invite the person for a chat.
If it is found that damage has been done, there is always a penalty for such misdemeanour to deter others from doing such. If nothing is done to deter others, almost everybody will be bringing electricians and quacks to destroy the good works of government.” On the issue of cutting and removal of customers’ cables, Idemudia said customers are not supposed to buy cables and if such thing happens, the customer should complain to the Customer Care Unit of his zone with a proof that he bought the cable.
On his part, Ikperite said: “If the customers bring the report to us, we will be able to treat such cases on their merit. There are people we disconnect and before you turn your back, they will get reconnected. Over time, there are people with such bad history and it is not good for you to allow somebody to be enjoying power supply without paying, so we don’t do that at the first or second instance. It must be somebody that has been so bad in that regard.”
Also speaking, the Senior Manager, Public Affairs, Festac Business Unit, Mrs. Chinelo Amah advised any customer with issues to come to the office. “Whenever you have issues, come to the appropriate authorities and make a formal complaint. We may not know everything that happens in the field except when customers come to us and complain, we then investigate,” she said.
On illegal collection of money from customers by field officers, Mrs Amah appealed to members of the public to report such to PHCN. “We always advise people to pay their bills but some would prefer the easy way out. They would give people money to help them. Some of these people are not PHCN staff, they are electricians who know how to reconnect light after PHCN field staff had disconnected customers for non-payment of bills. Please report such people to us.” On the allegation of crazy bills, Ikperite said: “In every aspect of our work, there is room for people to seek redress when they feel cheated. If the customer either by error of commission or omission sees that the billing is not appropriately done, nobody will coerce him to pay. All he needs to do is to forward such bill to the Customer Care unit for reconciliation. It is after that he can now say yes, he has been badly treated or has been well treated. If you have not sought such redress, it would be unfair to call PHCN names. Crazy bills at times can be as a result of malfunctioning of the machine. There is no man-made machine that will not at one time or the other malfunction. The fact is that sometimes our people have this mind-set that every error spotted in the bills is fraudulently put there. That is wrong. You should seek redress first at the appropriate quarters and don’t just go through touts.”