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10 years on, consumers not fully metered

By Mary Agidi


For decades, many electricity consumers in Nigeria have been groaning over estimated billing practices of the electricity distribution companies (Discos), due to lack of prepaid meters to calculate the actual amount of enegies they consume monthly.

The monthly exorbitant billing doesn’t put into consideration whether the consumer has access to the electricity or how often they make use of electricity for the period of the billing.

According to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), out of the total 12,825,005 registered electricity customers, only 5,707,838 have meters, indicating that over 7.1 million registered customers are subjected to the estimated billing system.

The overall metering rate across all DisCos was about 44.51%, with Ikeja DisCo having the highest metering rate at 72.0%, while Yola DisCo recorded the lowest at 18%.

Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, sometime in February 2024 had announced the federal government’s commitment to end estimated billing in the nation’s power sector by the end of this year.

 This announcement came shortly after President Bola Tinubu-led administration established a Presidential Metering Initiative, aimed at closing the metering gap in Nigeria.

Speaking on the development, the power Minister said: “Citizens are tired of estimated billing because it always leads to cheating between consumers, staff, and company. Before the end of this year, we are looking at the possibility of ending estimated billing because we want transparency and objectivity in our billing system.

“We have up to eight million meters gap in Nigeria, and what the initiative seeks to achieve is to close this gap within three to five years. This means that an average of two million meters is required on a yearly basis, and achieving the target is compulsory for citizens to enjoy stable power supply,” .

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This was as Nigerian governors Forum urged the federal government to enforce a “no-meter, no-service” policy for all new electricity connections to tackle the metering issues in the power sector.

This plea was outlined in the Development of the National Integrated Electricity Policy and Strategic Implementation Plan: Policy Recommendations by State Governments to the Federal Ministry of Power document from the Nigeria Governors’ Forum.

The development plan emerged after the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) announced the transfer of oversight of the electricity market in Ondo, Ekiti and Enugu to each state’s electricity regulatory bureau, in April.

In the document, state governments highlighted the pivotal importance of electricity meters in bridging the significant metering gap, which is essential for the viability of sub-national markets.

The states further argued that State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs) should possess the autonomy to determine the most appropriate meter technology, type, and form for deployment within their electricity markets.

The document read, “States believe that the provision of electricity meters to close the huge metering gap is a necessary requirement to make sub-national markets viable. However, SERCs in conjunction with the Distribution Licensees should be allowed to determine the meter technology, type and form of meters to be deployed within their State’s electricity markets, taking into consideration the cost of meters, extent of the telecommunications coverage in the State, tariff methodologies adopted by the SERC (fixed tariff, time of use, etc) and metering requirement in urban and rural communities and across customer categories arising from their energy consumption.

“States are of the view that the national electricity policy should mandate an immediate “no-meter, no-service” policy for all new connections to prevent the metering gap from further increasing.”

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“The Federal Government is urged to provide low-cost, long-term funding for metering schemes as direct loans to Distribution Licensees or off-balance sheet funding through special purpose meter finance companies (or meter asset SPV companies) to close the metering gap, whilst also encouraging electricity customers to directly purchase prepaid meters from accredited meter asset providers and manufacturers accredited by the SERC. States on their own will implement their viable metering programs and metering regulations to close the metering gap within their state electricity market.”

In a significant step towards implementing this in Ondo state, the government recently introduced the “O’ Datiwa Meter” Mass Metering initiative to eradicate the long-standing issue of estimated billing practices.

Implemented through the Ondo State Power Company and regulated by the Ondo State Electricity Regulatory Bureau, the programme would ensure that every electricity consumer in the state is provided with a meter.

The state government also issued an order mandating compliance from all Distribution Companies (DISCOs), noting that strict enforcement measures would be in place against those engaging in estimated billing practices, with clear regulations emphasizing the “No Meter, No Estimated Billing” and “No Meter, No Supply” policies.

According to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Energy, Engr. Alabi Johnson, whose office is saddled with the task,  “This mass metering initiative represents a significant step towards achieving transparency and fairness in our state’s electricity billing system.

“We urge all electricity consumers to cooperate with this program and take advantage of the benefits it offers.

These policies will be rigorously enforced to ensure consumers are billed accurately based on their actual electricity consumption. “The “O’ Datiwa Meter” programme is designed to alleviate the financial burden caused by estimated billing practices and empower the residents of Ondo State. The initiative underscores the government’s dedication to a smooth and efficient transition to a metered billing system, benefiting all residents.

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“This directive is said to be in accordance with Part VII, Section 77, Subsection 2(a) of the Ondo State Electric Power Sector Law 2020, reflecting the government’s commitment to a fair billing system.

“We are committed to ensuring a fair billing system that reflects the actual consumption of electricity by our people.

“As the program rolls out, all electricity consumers in Ondo State are encouraged to support and cooperate with the metering initiative, ensuring a fair and transparent billing system for all”.

Alabi who revealed that the state government would roll out 10,000 meters for the first phase, announced the price of purchase, saying “Our meters, inclusive of Value Added Tax, VAT, Is N110,000 for single phase and for 3-phase, we have N200,000”.

Speaking on how soon the meters would be available for consumers, he hinted that consumers have two days after registration, adding that “BEDC must go and do technical evaluation in the premises using the meter. That is what the law says, and after two days, when payment is made, Meter will be in your house for usage. So within about week, you have the Meter installed in your house”.

This initiative is one of the numerous ones propounded by past governments in Nigeria to regulate the power sector, beginning from the privatization of the sector from Nigerian Electricity Power Authority, NEPA, to Power Holding Company of Nigeria and the current Generators. Despite these efforts, electricity supply and management remains poor. The question Consumers are asking is, would this still solve the power supply problem?

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