By Adewale Sanyaolu
Nigerians waiting to get metered by the 11 electricity Distribution Companies (Discos) may have to endure for longer as the installation of prepaid meters is projected to gulp over N200 billion.
The Discos’ inability to meter every household is further compounded by liquidity problem challenges, which makes it difficult for them to access credit to purchase meters.
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who disclosed the robust metering requirement of the sector at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Department of Economics 2017 Public Lecture Series, however regretted that one of the omissions of the privatisation carried out by the last administration was its lack of compulsory metering component before the conclusion of the programme.
This, he said, was compounded by an inaccurate consumer projection of six million households, without a consumer audit, adding that these are the problems the Buhari government was trying to fix with the Power Sector Recovery Programme.
‘‘What we must insist on is the provision of meters, so that we can monitor and control what we consume. Government must also not interfere with the power of the regulator when it fixes tariff in the way the last administration ordered a reversal of tariff in order to win electoral votes in 2014.
“It created massive debt for Nigeria because while the government ordered a reversal of tariff, it did not reduce exchange rate, interest rate, cost of wages or cost of gas and other inputs necessary to produce power,’’ he disclosed.
The Minister queried why Nigeria should carry a debt created by an individual’s electoral ambition, adding that this was what the Buhari administration had to contend with.
He revealed that most, if not all, the oil and gas producing communities where there is electricity connection do not pay for power because somebody is carrying the cost.
This, he said, is worsened by the fact that the light bulbs are on during the day while in some communities they are never switched off, saying such act is waste because what is wasted will never be enough.
The Minister explained that different classes of consumers require different types of meters, including single and multiple phases, to ensure that meter matches consumer consumption, adding that meters by the same manufacturers are calibrated for each Disco’s use such that a consumer cannot use a meter calibrated for Ikeja Disco in Eko Disco without re-calibration.
The Minister advocated that whistle blowing for energy theft is a civic responsibility that should be embraced by all, stressing that the consumer base does not capture all those who consume power, and without meters, the Discos aggregate power distributed to a destination and estimate the bill for the known consumer who is perhaps paying for the neighbour who is not known or is stealing energy.