Senate scraps electricity fixed charges

Disturbed by complaints of electricity consumers across the country, the Senate has directed the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to halt community metering and the monthly N702 fixed charges on electricity bills to consumers.

The Senate took this decision yesterday following a motion brought to its floor by the former Governor of Ebonyi State, Senator Sam Egwu (Ebonyi North) and co-sponsored by Senator David Umaru (Niger East).

While considering the motion, the Senate argued that a consumer has the right to elect to be part of or not the bulk metering scheme that is being implemented by the electricity distribution companies (DISCOs).

Consequently, the Red Chamber directed the NERC to urge DISCOs to discontinue the practice of compulsory bulk metering of villages and communities in the rural areas in the country.

The Senate also urged the NERC to inquire into the numerous complaints before it by consumers in line with the provisions of Section 74(1)(b) of the Power Sector Reform Act (PSRA).

It further called on the power regulatory agency and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) to sensitise electricity consumers on the remedies available to them in the event of inefficient services by the DISCOs.

The upper chamber also directed NERC to make a regulation to mandate the DISCOs to discontinue the practice of making consumers pay for meters, poles and transformers, which by law, are properties of the DISCOs.

While leading debate on the motion, Egwu argued that where the consumers purchased those items, they should give notice of the purchase to the DISCOs and be entitled to recover their expenses from subsequent consumption of electricity.

Arguing further on the motion entitled “Unfair trade practices of electricity distribution companies in Nigeria,” Egwu lamented that Nigerians had been short-changed by the DISCOs for too long as a result of these sharp practices being perpetrated against Nigerians.

He said: “The distribution companies, since the takeover of their operations, have been ripping off consumers through (the) fixed charges and bulk metering across the country.

“Some areas in the country are still billed through the estimated billing system, which doesn’t make provisions for payment of only electricity that is consumed, even though bills are dished out without commensurate services being offered by the distribution companies.

“Despite all efforts by the government, however, there has been constant level of arbitrariness, whereby electricity consumers are charged extortionate rates, fixed rate, based on the use of the billed meters installed by the then Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

“With the present economic situation in Nigeria, a lot of Nigerians (particularly the downtrodden) would not be able to access one of the very basic needs of life (electricity).

This billing system is also capable of ruining the economic power of most small scale business that requires electricity to function.

“Even those (Nigerians) that have these prepaid meters are being billed a fixed rate of about N700 per month on these meters (whether or not they consume electricity). What is the purpose of this fixed rate? Why is this so? What is the rationale behind it?

“By the avalanche of complaints by electricity consumers about the unwholesome practice of the DISCOs, which fall short of standards established by the NERC and do not also meet up to global best practices, the distribution companies have failed to discharge their contractual obligations to the Nigerian public.”

Egwu explained that the arbitrary charges of electricity bills by the Discos was because they were struggling to meet a set target. In their contributions, Senators Mohammed Danjuma Goje, Ben Bruce, Nelson Effiong, Chuka Utazi, Mohammed Salami, Francis Alimikhena, and Shittu Mohammed Ubali supported the motion.

In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki said: “This is a very important topic.

The people have not seen any benefits from this privatisation exercise. If they need to be reversed, they must be reversed in the interest of Nigerians. The period of impunity is over.”

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