electricity

By Ediri Ejoh 

There are indications that 
the Federal Government may have achieved a metering score of 1.33 million customers across the country through both Meter Asset Provider, MAP, and National Mass Metering Program, NMMP, schemes.

But the metering gap appears to remain too high and still rising, hovering around 53 percent, despite the N60 billion support funding from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. 

In January, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, revealed that so far out of the N60 billion funding it has already disbursed the sum of N47.83 billion for the procurement and installation of 856,026 electricity meters across the country under the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) in the scheme’s first phase.

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According to data obtained from the electricity distribution companies, DISCOs, out of about 10 million registered customers 4.7 million or 47 per cent were metered as at the fourth quarter 2021.

“At the end of 2021, over 10 million customers are registered, with approximately 47 per cent metered”, the Association of Nigeria Electricity Distributors, ANED, said in their latest Commercial KPIs, Q4/2021 report, meaning that about 4.7 million registered power consumers use pre-paid meters while over 5.3 million are still unmetered.

Meanwhile, Commissioner in charge of Finance and Management Service at the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, Mr Nathan Shatti, giving an update on the metering scheme few days, hinted that the first phase of the NMMP which was flagged off on Oct. 30, 2020 installed about 980,000 free prepaid meters to electricity customers.

The previous metering program under the MAP scheme had recorded about 350,000 pre-paid meter installations, and adding the NMMP’s 980,000 brings the total number to about 1,330,000 customers across the country. 

Shatti said the procurement process for the next phase started in early 2022, adding that NERC was currently reviewing the capacity of the manufacturers.

Some disparities

However, the available data at the NERC contradicts DISCO’s figures on registered customer base, as it shows the registered energy customer population of 12.78million, as against 10 million given by the DISCOs. 

With NERC’s figures, actual ratio of metered customers drops significantly to about 37.3 percent, while the unmetered customers hovers around 62.7 percent.

Moreover, the third quarter 2021 and second second quarter 2021 show that the number of registered energy customers has increased by 15.6 percent, while the population of metered customers increased by only 8.4 percent.

This indicates that rather than decreasing the number of electricity consumers on estimated billing is rising, a situation which may have given more room for illegal connection to the network and, in turn, corrupt practices in the electricity market.

Many industry observers blame the situation on inefficiency and foot dragging on the path of the DISCOs in meeting the massive demand for pre-paid meters amidst the exorbitant bills, otherwise known as estimated billings, the DISCOs slam on the consumers with postpaid meters.

The Federal Government had overtime initiated programs in a bid to salvage the metering gap in the country, but huge shortfalls still persist.

Accordingly, the government had initiated the NMMP program, working in collaboration with local meter manufacturers, to provide smart prepaid meters to all unmetered customers.
In its statement the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will provide N60 billion for the first phase of its national mass metering programme.

Recall that the first phase (Phase 0) of the NMMP was launched in December 2020, with a target of one million meters across the country.  Howerver, 750,000 meters were delivered in eight months.

The NERC was quoted to have said, “This is a marked improvement in terms of the speed of installation of meters compared to its predecessor scheme, MAP program, which recorded 350,000-meter installations in just over 18 months.”

Discomfort with 

free meters

However, many observers noted that the free metering consideration did not go down well with the DISCOs. Consequently, delays have characterized the execution of the programme while, in ripping customers, some operators in the distribution network demand single-phase meter fee for between N58,661.69 and N70,000 and a three-phase meter for the price of N109,684.36 and N130,000, despite the Federal government’s warnings to desist from such.

In what seemed like a scheme to frustrate customers from acquiring the free metering, Vanguard learnt that after registering and captured into the waiting list by the DISCOs, the operators are fast to present the option of either paying the fee or wait endlessly for the free one.

During a State House ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Media Team, Minister of Power, Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu, blamed those he described as ‘touts’ and “kabu-kabu’’ people in the power sector as responsible for the reported selling of meters to electricity customers.

“You will always have these kinds of things –like somebody trying to short-change others; otherwise these meters are free; we have said it a number of times.

“These are tools that will generate liquidity. How can we be selling something that will bring in money? It is the responsibility of the DISCOS and the government is seeing that they are not doing so.

“So, government is stepping in and giving the DISCOS the meters to distribute for free. But there’ll always be `touts’ and `kabu-kabu’ and I think it’s the touts that are doing this kind of deal.”

In what seemed complex, ANED’s Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Barr. Sunny Oduntan, a few months ago, hinted that the said MAP program was to be paid for and then the money returned back to the customers afterwards.

He stated: “This twin approach (MAP & NMMP) is aimed at closing the metering gap in the next one or two years, so that estimated billing will be reduced to a minimum.

“However, of note is that under the MAP  program, with the advantage of expedited delivery and installation, the customer has to first pay for the meter before being refunded. Ultimately, the meter is free to the customer, via the energy credits”.

Meanwhile, questions to how it is calculated and refunded remains a mystery to consumers as explanations, education and sensitization of this process has never been made clear or result testified  by customers to the DISCOs claim.

Moreover, experts in the power sector are quick to question the reported number of identified energy customers given by the Commission. 

According to their analysis, Nigeria has not less than 40 million households, and if compared to the 12.78 million customers identified as at September 2021, it shows that over 68 percent of the Nigerian households are either unconnected or unaccounted for.
More comments

Meanwhile, stakeholders have called on the federal government to as a matter of urgency deploy the services of civil society to monitor the metering process to rid it off misappropriation.

They also believe that 70 percent of data submitted by some DISCOs for first phase were falsified.

Mr. Adetayo Adegbemle, Convener and Executive Director, PowerUp Nigeria, an Electricity Consumer Right and Power Sector Policy Advocacy organization, lauded the NMMP scheme, saying “NMMP is a welcomed program, especially as the Discos have not shown much willingness to do the needful.

“First, it helps fulfil the metering need of the power sector. Secondly, it fits call for deepening of local meter manufacturing capacity. I am hoping they will do more in this regard.’’

However, on implementation he believes it has many weak links. He stated: ‘‘It has faced many challenges, and we are still calling on the CBN and the FG to involve civil society organizations in the power sector to monitor deployments and installations by the Discos and vendors as well and give independent audit feedback.

“The number, while it’s still short of the demand by the sector, can lay a good foundation for future Metering if well implemented.”

Asked about the speculations indicting the DISCOs as frustrating the process, Adegbemle, noted, “That the DISCOs are frustrating the system is not a speculation. At the meeting held in February to kickstart the next phase, it was discovered by CBN that over 70 percent of data submitted by some DISCOs for the phase were falsified.

“That’s why the phase hasn’t started yet.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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