The recent assurance by the Federal Government through the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) that effective metering of every electricity consumer in Nigeria would commence from May 2019 seems to start yielding results.
This is promoted by the issuance of official permits to Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) of Ikeja, Benin and Port Harcourt Discos in accordance with Section 4(3) of the MAP regulations.
According to NERC’s General Manager, Public Affairs, in Abuja, Dr. Usman Arab, permits are being granted to the MAPs that were successful in the procurements conducted by some Discos. He added that by virtue of Section 4(3) of the 2018 MAP regulations, all electricity distribution licensees are required to engage MAPs that would assist as inventors to close the metering gap and thus eliminate the estimated billing in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).
Meanwhile, the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) has commenced enumeration exercise in Eleme Local Government Area in compliance with regulatory frameworks to help eliminate the estimated billing system prevalent in the area.
In an interview with Inside Eleme, the Business Service Manager of PHEDC, Eleme Business Service Centre, Engr. Kufere Dennis said that the on-going enumeration exercise in Eleme would assist PHEDC know the number of electricity users in the area with the aim of distributing pre-paid meters to customers.
He said, aside from knowing the exact number of prepaid meters to be deployed to correspond with electricity consumers in the area, the enumeration exercise when completed would help PHEDC put check to leakages in revenue which they have been experiencing.
He said issuance of official permit to Meter Asset Provider (MAP) of Port Harcourt Disco will take effect once the on-going enumeration is completed but was not certain whether or not the meters to be issued would be paid for or free of charge.
He assured that PHEDC would continue to work hard and improve on the supply of electricity to users in Eleme Local Government Area, and appealed to the people in the area to pay their bills. He identified reluctance of consumers to pay bills as a serious impediment in the provision of constant power supply in Eleme, stressing that PHEDC is a private entity that is in business to deliver service and make profit in order to sustain its service. On why PHEDC is biased in electricity supply to a strategic place as Eleme whereas other neigbouring towns like Elelenwo, Oyigbo, Woji and Okrika enjoy relatively steady power supply, he said: “PHED is not biased against Eleme, those places you are mentioning are using different feeders and the allocation to each of those feeders depends on what we get from the national grid. So each of the feeders has its own peculiarity, like the feeder that feeds Eleme, Onne territorial cadre feeder is a feeder that runs from quite a distance and gets to as far as Onne. So sometimes even when we don’t have supply there could be fault on the line and PHED does not relent in making sure that those faults are being attended to on time, but all the same PHED is working towards improving supply to the people of Eleme.
He said the hostile attitude to bill payment by customers in Eleme is an impediment to power supply in the area.
“But one thing is this, PHED is a private firm which does business in other to get back what it has put into the business and probably make profit out of it. Eleme as a whole, the attitude to paying bills to an extent contributes to how rapid PHED could be in order to rectify fault, attend to them and ensure they have electricity.
“As a matter of fact, some customers are really, really hostile when it comes to bill payment. And that is why I like a situation where they can be sensitized. I have been holding some customer engagement trying to sensitize the customers on the need for them to pay their bills and of course PHED will be forced to making sure that supply to such area improves; not sending so much of light to areas where you hardly collect the money and when you go there, some people will attack you and my friend, what is your problem, we are not going to pay and all that. So, this is one of the reasons that supply is not that much but all the same, it’s a two way thing, it’s a give and take thing. Inasmuch as the customers are going to pay their bills, of course PHED is working towards improving supply to the area as soon as possible.
“In Eleme, we have 7000 customers and the ones that respond to bill payment is less than 1000 which mean that we have less than 10% of response when it comes to bill payment. So, as businessman, we you invest and unable to recoup what has been invested, how do you cope. So, the attitude of not paying bills from the people of Eleme has to be worked on. People should to understand that electricity is what we buy, PHED buys energy and sells, so when they sell they have to get the money and of course they will go and buy more.
“Now, they have to understand the need for them to pay their bills and they have to understand that PHED is not NEPA, you know NEPA in those days was controlled by Federal Government, but PHED is a private firm that invests so much money and buys energy from distribution and they are expecting to get the equivalent amount of money they have used to buy this energy and when it is not forthcoming, how will they go back to buy more energy?
“So, when the feeders are faulty or the peculiarity of the feeder having issues, without taking into consideration the fact that this is a capital intensive project. So for PHED to raise money to start to put these things together, the customers themselves must be willing and be seen to pay their bills”.
On how, the Eleme Local Government Council and the Companies in Eleme can be of help to ensure steady power supply in the area he said: “We have started engaging with the Eleme Local Government Council Chairman and representatives as well to mobilize the stakeholders and customers so that the Eleme people can be mobilized and sensitized to pay their bills. We are not asking anyone to come and invest in our facility, it is the sole responsibility of PHED to do that, all we are asking is for people to pay their bills, I think that way, PHED will do their bid, that’s all”.
On the issue of disparity in area such that, due to unequal distribution of transformers some parts of Eleme with 33KVA have steady power supply while areas on 11KVA do not usually have light, he said: “It is 33KVA line that run across Eleme, so there are people who are on line load, they are tied directly to the line, any time the accessibility line is on, those people have the opportunity of having their supply.
“But there are these people that are being controlled or tied to the injection substation; they are regulated because they are on the 11KVA line. We have two Control Rooms, one, COT Gas, and the other one New Town, so those that are tied to this inject substations. We have what we call workland that regulate the number of hours when the feeder is supposed to come on and when the feeder is supposed to go off. So, it depends, if you are on 33KV line, that means anytime the 33KV line is on you are having supply but the other ones on 11KV line are regulated by the workland from the injection substation so that’s just the difference. So, the transformer on 11KV line is a different type of transformer from the one on 33KV line, so that’s just the difference”.