Power distribution companies are increasingly installing meters that are non-compliant with industry standards, the Transmission Company of Nigeria has said.
According to the Market Operator, a department in the TCN, many substandard meters are being given out by Discos to electricity consumers, a development that will attract sanctions if not stopped.
This, however, was countered by the power distributors, as they dared the transmission company to name the Discos that were culpable
But the information from the TCN, which was captured in the latest report presented by the Market Operator at the last meeting of the Nigerian power sector, confirmed claims by consumers that some meters were non-compliant, as the meters read too fast, and made users to pay excessive electricity bills.
The report by the Market Operator was obtained by our correspondent from the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in Abuja on Friday as industry operators gear up for the next meeting of the sector holding this month.
In the report, the TCN said, “It has come to our attention at the market operations that some Discos are increasingly getting involved in the installation of non-compliant meters. We intend to notify the commission (Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission) of these defaulting Discos before appropriate sanctions are applied.”
Prior to the TCN’s confirmation, electricity consumers had complained that some of the meters installed by Discos were reading too fast, particularly when benchmarked against other meters in a given neighbourhood.
The President, Electricity Consumers Association of Nigeria, Chijioke James, stated that power users across the country were being maltreated by power firms.
James, who is a lawyer and development practitioner, told our correspondent that aside from the fact that some consumers paid for their meters, many of the meters had yet to be installed by Discos several months after payments were made, while some of the installed meters were reading too fast.
He argued that meters that read too fast were substandard and urged the power sector regulator to sanction Discos that gave out such meters so consumers.
He said, “I’d raised this issue of non-compliant meters that are reading too fast in the past because many power users complained about this issue. It is important to state here that consumers pay for meters because they are tired of excuses. This is why they give the distribution companies loans in advance through the purchase of these meters.
“But this has caused double jeopardy for the Nigerian consumers because so many people have paid for meters and up until now, they have not been metered. Some of those who have been metered complain that the meters are of low quality and are reading too fast.”
James added, “Hundreds of consumers call this association from various states to also complain that there are no meters despite the fact that they’ve paid for the meters. This is not fair. The regulator of the sector is not firm. We cannot continue like this, which was why I recently urged the President to declare a national emergency in the power sector.”
He had earlier told our correspondent that the problem of the power sector was beyond metering of consumers and listed issues killing the industry as poor supply of electricity; issuance of estimated bills by Discos; abysmal transmission facility and non-remittance of funds to the market.
“The problems of this sector are just too many. Ask yourself, since it was privatised, how many of these numerous problems have been solved? Instead of solving them, more keep showing up by the day. We call on the President to act now before the sector collapses,” the ECAN president had said.
When contacted for reaction on the issue, the Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Association of National Electricity Distributors, an umbrella body for the Discos, Sunday Oduntan, said he would not comment on such a generalised claim by the transmission company.
Oduntan, who is also a lawyer, stated that the transmission company should name the Discos that were involved in such act, rather than generalising.
He said that the power distributors were working hard to meet the demands of their customers across the country.
He said, “I do not react to speculations but specific issues. You don’t just say some people are doing this or that; what I want to hear is that somebody has done this. The report didn’t say all the 11 Discos are doing this. It did not mention the name of any Disco; so how can you react?
“It is still a generalised claim and until we see specifics, that’s when we can react. We believe in our integrity and I won’t speak on something that I know nothing about. So why should I react to a general statement? There should be facts and figures and the names of the Discos involved should be mentioned. Then we can react, if there’s a need for reaction.”
The power sector regulator could not comment either on the matter when contacted, as NERC’s spokesperson, Usman Arabi, had yet to respond to an enquiry sent to him on the matter as of the time this report was filed in.
But commenting on the complaint about meters reading too fast while speaking on the sidelines of a recent event in Abuja, the Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, Ernest Mupwaya, said the AEDC was aware of the issue.
He, however, noted that the Disco had acquired facilities to address the concern in its areas of operation, adding that the AEDC would make necessary adjustments where customers felt their estimated bills were too high.
Mupwaya said, “Some customers complain that their meters are running too fast and as a result we have got portable meters that can be used for testing when hooked up with existing meters. When this is done, within a few minutes, we can declare whether our meter is faulty or not.
“That equipment can also be used to make corrections where customers believe estimated billing is high. At such instance, we can put a meter there temporarily and it will give us information that will make us adjust the estimated billing. So, it is equipment that can be used for various purposes.”