#Editorial

Curbing DISCOs Excesses

NIGERIA’s electricity challenge has been adjudged to be one of the thorny problems hurting several sectors of the nation’s economy. Many economic experts still hold on tenaciously to the belief that Nigeria’s economy would receive a boost if the government can solve the problem of electricity. To worsen the situation, the step taken by the federal government to privatize the sector, as a measure of improvement, seemed to be an exercise in futility as it failed despite the confidence reposed in the initiative.

OVER  the past decade, the various discos’  operate with impunity which have left the government stupefied and the citizens helpless.

In  a  measure meant to  curt the excesses of the DISCOs, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, recently declared that it would deduct N10,505,286,072 from the annual  revenues of the 11 power distribution companies during the next tariff review. The measure was part of sanctions over their non-compliance with the capping of estimated bills for unmetered customers as the billing of such customers in their various franchise areas for 2023 revealed non-compliance with the monthly energy caps issued by the commission. Recall that seven million Nigerians were reported not to be metered by the Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) a few years ago. Probably, the status quo might remain going by the recent debacle of the Discos which had attracted sanction by the NERC.

AN Editorial by The Hope in August last year viewed the published figure of unmetered customers out of the over 62% of the over 200 million Nigerians that access electricity with skepticism. The conception arose out of NERC’s report in July 2022 that about 60% of the electricity consumers in Nigeria are on estimated billings and nothing seems to have significantly changed in this regard. Ideally, providing meters for this set of people would have been the best solution. Yet, the DISCOs have mutinously refused to issue meters to consumers. This could be best described as an act of oppression, extortion, and cheating on the hapless consumers as there are no cogent reasons adduced for the failure.

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THE Hope unequivocally demands that the authorities look into the impasse and bring an end to this impunity. Although the government’s monopoly of the electricity value chain in Nigeria was removed in November 2013 with the unbundling of the erstwhile Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), we still believe that it has a say in how electricity is being handled in the nation. This stake was reinforced in the formation of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) as an independent regulatory agency, as provided in the Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005, with the task of monitoring and regulating the Nigerian electricity industry, with issuing licenses to market participants, and ensuring compliance with market rules and operating guidelines. The commission registered six power generation companies (GENCOs) and seven distribution companies (DISCOs) to improve electricity supply across the country.

IT  is unnerving that over half of their consumers are coerced into paying for what they do not consume! For instance, a household that consumes an average of 1,000 units of kilowatts per month could be given 5,000 units on the estimate because the DISCOs normally calculate the number of kilowatts consumed in a particular community and spread it over postpaid or outright unmetered consumers in the form of estimated billings. The Hope condemns this criminal act in totality.

ANOTHER form of extortion by the DISCOs is their arm-twisting attitude towards the provision and maintenance of electricity distribution infrastructure in their areas of operations. They most times leave the provision and maintenance to consumers. In most developing areas, the community through the landlords’ association procures poles, cables, and other equipment to power their community, and after being energized, the property becomes the DISCOs’. Still, in both developed and new areas, once any equipment like a transformer has fault either traceable to the poles and cables damage or fuses, the DISCOs leave these unattended, and members of the community are left with no option but to task themselves and raise funds to fix them to avoid being thrown into perpetual darkness.

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THE Hope maintains that the government has a responsibility to protect citizens from unscrupulous economic principles and practices like that currently obtained in the power sector. First, the DISCOs must be compelled to obey the directive of issuing meters to all its customers within a given time frame as the last option for them having failed to obey this order for about a decade now. Second, the (DISCOs) must ensure regular and constant electricity supply by maintaining their facilities. NERC as a regulatory agency must walk its talk by enforcing the rules.

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