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Excessive power charges: Reps label DISCOs fraudsters

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By Emman Ovuakporie

ABUJA—MEMBERS of the House of Representatives adhoc committee probing excessive electricity charges being levied on Nigerian consumers by Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, yesterday, told stakeholders that power distribution operators in Nigeria were fraudsters.

House of Representatives

This came on a day the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, revealed at a one-day investigative hearing organised by the adhoc committee, chaired by Rep Ajibola Israel Famurewa, that there was no record of metered customers and estimated billing for customers.

According to the apex bank, this is despite the disbursement of over N488 billion with an interest rate of 10 per cent, against the market rate of 23 per cent to DISCOs.

This is even as Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, said the House would soon pass a bill criminalising estimated billing by DISCOs.

Muazu Lawal (APC, Zamfara) shot the first salvo at representatives of the DISCOs when he said:  “I think Discos and others are not ready for the job before them. How can you be operating like that?  You just go about billing people the way you like without considering the actual power they consume. This happens everywhere in the country, including here in Abuja. This is unacceptable.”

“DISCOs are either operated by fraudsters or they are just extorting money from Nigerians. If you are not ready for the job, tell us you are not ready.”

All the lawmakers spoke in the same vein, noting that there was need to really deal with the manner  DISCOs and GENCOs had been operating in Nigeria.

We don’t have record of metered customers—CBN

In his submission, CBN governor, Godwin Emiefele, who was represented by Head of Infrastructure Financing, Boma Binima, said two tranches of intervention totaling N488 billion had been given to the sector since privatisation to erase legacy debts.

He said:  “The CBN-Nigerian Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility ( CBN-NEMFS) was aimed at settling deposit money banks that financed the outstanding payment obligations by market participants, service providers and gas suppliers that accrued during the Interim Rules Period (IRP Debts).

‘’Factored in were also the legacy debts the PHCN generation companies owed gas suppliers and Nigerian Gas Company Limited.

“A total of N158.74 billion has been distributed under the facility as Discos meet contract terms under the Transition Electricity Market.

“To make electricity sufficient, we also intervened by providing a payment assurance facility. And to date, we have disbursed N330 billion out of a projected N701 billion.”

The CBN further said distribution companies bought 704,928 meters from the facility; purchased and installed 511 transformers, while 2206 kilometers of 11Kv lines and 130 kilometers of 0.45 Kv lines were rehabilitated.

CBN governor said: “The generation companies were monitored and we discovered that 1,012 megawatts of generation capacity was recalled and 56 substations were constructed and rehabilitated.

“The CBN has no record of metered customers and estimated billing for customers and that N20 billion has been repaid from the CBN- NEMFS facility.”

We’ll soon pass a bill criminalising estimated billing —Dogara

In his remarks, Dogara, who was represented by  Shehu Aliu Musa (Bauchi), said estimated billing would be criminalized in the country soon.

“As most of the stakeholders present here may be aware, the House of Representatives is currently working on a bill for an Act to amend the Electricity Power Sector  Reform Act, 2004, to prohibit and criminalize estimated billing by Electricity  Distribution Companies and provide for compulsory installation of prepaid meters to all power consumers in Nigeria,’’ he said.

According to him, the bill is already at the committee stage and is meant to block another loophole through which the DISCOs allegedly cheat consumers.”

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