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Electricity rip-off: Buhari must act

MY experience in recent times concerning electricity supply, and this could be assumed to be the same experience for millions of Nigerians necessitates this piece. I bought a prepaid meter in 2008, and quite early in 2011 the meter stopped working. Consequently, I was made to pay fixed sum till a new billing system was introduced.

In the first instance, the only alternative Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) now Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) could provide  is for me to buy a new prepaid meter, which was annoying and irritating. For a family of three (wife and a kid), it is so surprising that my monthly bill had jumped from an initial N5,000 to almost N30,000 in a  two-rooms apartment. I have however kept to my monthly payment of N5,000 not minding their threats and what have you.

Many things are wrong with this system. Firstly, there is no known template or yardstick for determining the actual electricity consumption, since there is no meter to be read nor monitored. I dare say somebody somewhere arbitrarily determines the electricity consumption and cost. Just like that. What a manner of an unfair system could this be? This is unfair. This is what Nigerians are passing through virtually every month.

Secondly is  the issue of  N750 fixed charge. The purpose of the charge has not been explained till today, no tangible or tenable explanation has been offered for this amount which is collected monthly. Of what essence is this fixed charge if when a customer’s prepaid meter is faulty, the only available option is a new one? Will the government whose mantra is fighting against corruption remain quiet in the face of this rip-off?

Finally, if a customer is ready to buy a prepaid meter, the process itself is a continued rip-off and short-changing.  Such a customer will be required to clear all his bills including crazy ones and the estimated bill arrived with no template of electricity usage, after which a customer is expected to pay through bank draft the sum of N38,700 for the prepaid meter. Then the customer will be told that in six months the meter will be ready. In the meantime, within the next six months (some were not given meter even in twelve months), the very same estimated bill (that the customer was asked to clear before beginning the process of buying a prepaid meter), will still be sent to the customer on monthly basis, and as expected the customer has to pay. To me, this is a booby trap and expression of a wicked attitude towards the citizens by EKEDC. A customer who has paid for prepaid meter, not given  same and at same time made to pay estimated bills, again.

President Buhari should look into this issue. The president cannot and must not claim ignorance of all this practice by electricity providers. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Agency (NERC), though empowered to deal with such issues seems to have  fallen asleep allowing the DISCOs to get away with ‘murder’ as it were. If the president claims ignorance of this rip-off, it behoves Messrs Femi Adeshina and Garba Shehu, to bring this to the notice of the president. President Buhari needs to ask questions on the provision of prepaid meters, at least made-in-Nigeria prepaid meters (which are not available to customers) that was presented to him during the briefing from the Ministry of Power.

Now a word for the president. I will state as a matter of fact, that the patience of Nigerians is running low for the present administration. Not that Nigerians did not know the enormity of the problem at hand, and not that an average Nigerian is expecting miracle but the slow pace of governance is worrysome. It is not defensible that a man who pursued a particular position for almost 13 years would get to such a post and start asking for more time. Let me say, without apology, before I am painted otherwise (by latter day Buhari supporters), I voted Buhari in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 presidential elections.

It is said that the cabal behind these power organisations is gargantuan and hegemonic. Have they taken this new government hostage? Again, the government owes the citizens responsibility to defend them from unfair practices, particularly citizens must not be made to pay for what they did not use. Mr President must act now.

Mr. Adedeji Badejo, a  commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.


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