The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has warned electricity distribution companies (DisCos) against removal of meters from customer premises purportedly on the regulator’s directive that all meters that have been in use for more than 10 years should be phased out.
In a statement by NERC’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Dr. Usman Abba-Arabi, on Friday, he said the commission never gave such directive, while urging customers to report such conduct.
The commission also cautioned DisCos against forcing payment of outstanding bills as a precondition for acquiring meter under the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) scheme.
NERC frowned at DisCos forcing customers to supply distribution infrastructure as a precondition for providing or restoring electricity supply.
The regulator said it would soon prescribe a cap representing the maximum amount that a DisCo may charge an unmetered customer following complaints about the issuance of estimated electricity bills.
“The attention of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission NERC has been drawn to the ongoing practice of some electricity distribution companies forcing customers to invest in the replacement of distribution infrastructure such as transformers, cables, etc as a condition for the restoration of electricity supply,” the commission said.
“The Commission had earlier issued a ‘Regulation for Investment in Electricity Networks’ whereby customers desirous of intervening in the restoration of power supply may invest in the provision of materials and installation. The regulation provides that such an arrangement must always be on the basis of an executed ‘Project Agreement’ between the customers and distribution company in which the costs and the mechanism for recovery of the investment are mutually agreed between the parties.
“In this regard, customers are hereby requested to report any electricity distribution company that has engaged in the practice of forcing customers to supply materials and/or installation as a precondition for providing or restoring electricity supply.
“The attention of the Commission has also been drawn to the current practice of some electricity distribution companies embarking on the removal of meters from customer premises purportedly on the regulator’s directive that all meters that have been in use for more than 10 years should be phased out.
“The Commission has issued no such directive to the licensees and no metered customer should be transferred to ‘estimated billing’ on the premise that meters in use for more than 10 years are dysfunctional. All licensees must henceforth adhere to the PART III, SECTION 3.5.2 of the Metering Code which states that ‘if a metering system fault occurs, the Distributor shall provide urgent metering services to repair or replace the metering system as soon as it is practicable and in any event within two working days of the Distributor discovering that the fault exists’.
“In this regard, customers are hereby requested to report any electricity distribution company that has continued with the decommissioning of meters without immediate replacement.
“Furthermore, the attention of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission has been drawn to the practice of some electricity distribution companies insisting on the payment of all outstanding electricity debts as precondition for the acquisition of electricity meters under the Meter Asset Provider Regulation.
“The Commission is committed to expediting a closure of the metering gap in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry thus eliminating the current unwarranted practice of ‘estimated billing’.
“In response to customer complaints about the issuance of estimated electricity bills and pending the installation of the estimated over 5m units of meters, the Commission shall soon prescribe a cap representing the maximum amount that a DisCo may charge an unmetered customer.”
In pursuit of realising the main objective of the Meter Asset Provider Regulations, the commission requested customers denied the opportunity of acquiring meters under the new regulatory framework on account of outstanding estimated bills to contact the commission by sending an email with full details of the circumstances.