... with poor power supply and crazy bills’
The tales, pains and hardship being experienced by two residents of Ikeja metropolis, Messrs. Oladehinde Ojekunle and Fatai Amuda, can best illustrate the general experience and frustration of the public with the district electric power supply company, Ikeja Electric Distribution Company (IEDC), servicing the area.
While the consumers groan daily in utter despair over poor and erratic services, constant power outages, and most times living in total darkness, the Ikeja Electric Distribution Company (IEDC) have decided to show her fangs, by practically turning the heat on her consumers with a new revised billings system. The new billing system has seen bills rising by some 100 per cent.
The consumers claimed that ‘not only that the billing rises up sharply, so also were the units allegedly consumed, in a period when outages were more pronounced than supply’.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) approved rate of billing still in operation per kilowatt is #25.731 for the private household and #41.661 for business/commercial buildings.
Findings by the FEFERITY MAGAZINE showed that the majority of the residential and even commercial buildings are not metered. The ones with the old analogue meters are also not being read at all. The DISCOS thus rely solely on ‘estimated billing method’ to bill consumers. This method, consumers believe is prone to error and most of all, deliberate cheating.
Just February 2020, the NERC ordered the DISCOS to discontinue the ‘estimated billing method’. The body also ordered that any consumer without meter should not pay more than #1,800.00 per month as electricity charges. But these orders were spurned and the billing method continued unabated.
Although there are speculations since December 2019 on the impending hike in tariffs payable by the consumers across the country, the Federal Government later announced through the Ministry of Power that she would be ‘subsidizing the gap till April’, when the new tariffs would be effective.
At present, the weather in the country now is very hot, rising to 420c in some States, at peak period. Lagos, in particular, has been sweltering under a very high heat of about 360c centigrade for the past four weeks or so.
With the weather terribly hot, heat all over the place, thus making life generally unbearable. Many people now rely on power generating sets with all its hazards, since the power company’s supply has dropped considerably.
The bills, now being sent via electronic devices, started flooding the email addresses and telephone lines of consumers late evening on Tuesday.
Mr Oladehinde Ojekunle, a retired Army Sergeant, lives with his family in Ojodu area of the Ikeja metropolis. His building is a six-room apartment with two boys quarters. He told our Correspondent that his bills suddenly jumped from the usual 480 units per month to 1260 units per month in the billing for the month of February. IE charges 22.75 Naira per unit and still add 7.55 VAT to the total charges.
The retired Soldier was full of anguish, as he lamented ‘no additional electronic or electrical gadgets were added by him or any of the four tenants. Where do these wicked people now want the money to pay this crazy bill to come from?’
Mr Fatai Amuda, also a pensioner, lives with his aged wife and a maid in his four-bedroom bungalow. He said he hardly put on any electrical gadget, yet the units consumed keep rising monthly. This month the bill sent to him was #19,731.00. He could hardly comprehend the bills anymore.
The hues and cries were all over the area covered by the Ikeja Electric Distribution Company. Another housewife told our correspondence in Ojodu area of Ikeja that ‘in my three-bedroom flat, the bill is usually #28,000.00 per month since December. They have disconnected us for the past two months for irregular payments. This month, they sent in a bill of #45, 270. 00. How do I pay this’, she queried rhetorically?
The policy of IE is that current billing must be fully paid. And any complaint, protest, or even petition to the Company’s Head Office in Alausa, Ikeja are often treated with the utmost levity.
A cross sampling around the area covered by the IE showed that in most areas, supplies were very poor. In some areas, residents claimed they have light for less than an hour per day, while it is better in some.
At the Ojodu Undertaking Office, our correspondent was directed to the head office in Alausa, Ikeja. There, the Manager claiming, he was not competent to speak to the press. All efforts of the FEFERITY MAGAZINE to speak with the Customers Care Manager at the distribution’s head office were largely rebuffed. Our correspondent visited the Office twice this week, between Wednesday and Thursday, he was directed by the Receptionist in the Front Office Desk to drop his complaints in the Complaints Box.
But a senior Official in the Engineering department spoke to us off record. He offered some insight into the ‘problems and politics of power generation and distribution in the country’.
According to him, ‘the DISCOS are allotted to the most unqualified and incompetent political godfathers, hence the poor service delivery’.
He was of the opinion that the ‘godfathers thought power business was like the telecommunications business where the MTN and co came into the country with portfolio bags and started making billions of dollars in profits. It is when these greedy godfathers entered the business that they realize that power was far more different’.
He further alleged that they were most unwilling to revamp old and ailing equipment, and this is hampering power supply. Even when there is power, we cannot put on some lines’, he concluded and walked away sadly.
Mrs Joyce Nwakamma, a legal practitioner with an office in Ikeja metropolis spoke with our correspondence at the premises of the power company in Alausa, Ikeja. According to her, ‘the current power company has a long history in corporate wickedness and inefficiency’.
She traced the history from ‘the metamorphosis from the days of Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, (ECN) to National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and now to the nebulous Ikeja Electric Distribution Company (IE).
Like Mrs Nwakamma, several consumers are unanimous in their call for the revocation of the concessionary agreement with these DISCOS. Many believe the DISCOS ‘are mainly out to rip off the consumers, without providing commensurate services’.
It will be recalled that in an attempt to unbundle the inefficient corporate humongous called PHCN, the Federal Government in 2005 passed the Electric Reforms Act 2005. The Act dismantled the PHCN into 18 companies comprising 6 power generating companies, one transmission company, and eleven distribution companies.
The distribution aspects were franchised to private concerns. The country was divided into eleven zones for this purpose. The Ikeja, Eko, Benin, Kano, Enugu, Abuja, Yola, Jos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt and Kaduna DISCOS. These DISCOS have now become an albatross to the people.
Reports from other parts of the country indicated that the trend is the same. The Ibadan Electric Distribution Company, (IBDC) is not fearing any better. So also, Benin in Edo state and others.
The Electric Generation Company at a point alleged that there is enough power generation only that the DISCOS are not buying. The allegation a source at the IE confirmed, but said ‘most of our equipment is old and needed replacements. Until this is done, no one should expect any better performance from these DISCOS’.
But while the stakeholders engaged in the insensitive blame game, responsibilities shifting, consumers are groaning in deep pains and suffering huge financial losses monthly.
Afolayan Adebiyi writes from Lagos, Nigeria
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