THE overwhelming importance of estimated electricity billing, otherwise known as “crazy bills”, was demonstrated recently when a bill sponsored by the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, received the unanimous support of lawmakers across party lines at its third reading in the House of Representatives. It is now on the way to the Senate for further legislative input.
Known as The Electricity Power Reform Act (Amendment Bill) 2018, it prohibits estimated billing by the Power Distribution Companies, DISCOS.
It mandates them to provide consumers with meters within 30 days of extending their services to them, failing which fines of between N500,000 to one million naira are prescribed, or a six-month jail term or both. It also protects the consumers from arbitrary disconnection.
The original intention of privatising the downstream of the power sector for more efficient service provision almost five years ago, rather than being a dream come true, has resulted to nightmares for hapless consumers. The service providers have proved their incompetence and lack of financial capacity to re-enact the revolution in the telecom sector which had prompted the sale of the assets of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, to private investors.
The DISCOS have continued the inefficiency, impunity, callousness, corruption and predatory reflexes of the defunct PCHN. They deliberately foot-drag in the provision of meters. Instead, they prefer to issue baseless crazy bills even when they fail to deliver the electricity.
It is unfortunate that the industry regulator, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Agency, NERC, which had failed to respond to the distress calls of exploited consumers, has taken up the battle against this customer protection Bill.
NERC appears more interested in protecting the interests of the power service providers.
We must make it abundantly clear that there will be no electricity without the service providers and paying consumers.
Both sides deserve adequate protection. The only sensible and just way of carrying both sides along is to ensure that every power consumer is metered as soon as they become customers.
Anyone who steals power must be punished according to the law, and no power provider should issue bills except through metering.
This is the work of government regulators which the NERC and other authorities have failed to do, leaving the consumers at the mercy of corrupt and incompetent power companies and their often cruel staff.
We call on the National Assembly, NERC and other concerned bodies to close ranks and end estimated billing in the power industry.
Every power consumer has the right to be metered; they also have an obligation to pay their bills promptly to enable the power companies survive and thrive.
Perhaps, it is time to comprehensively reassess the power sector and address all concerns hampering its growth.