Electricity meters: Nigeria should borrow a leaf from Ghana
Nigeria’s electricity sector is a study in chaos. Perhaps the most vexing issue for customers is the controversy around supply of meters. Logically, it is the obligation of the DISCOs to meter their customers, but in Africa’s largest economy, logic is not always the process of reason. Often, it is the absence of it.
When power sector assets were privatised in 2013, DISCOs were obligated to provide meters for customers but three years into the exercise they had only succeeded in metering a paltry 10 percent of their customers according to a Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) document seen last year.
Following a litany of complaints by customers, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission introduced a policy known as Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI), in 2015 to assuage embittered customers.
CAPMI is a model that allows electricity consumers self-finance their meter acquisition and installation. Through the policy, customers paid for their meters in installment or one-off basis while DISCOs provide the meters.
But the process soon failed as customers who have been fleeced over N50,000 for meters were placed on unending waiting list. NERC abolished the policy in 2016, after it could only provide 500,000 meters in the country for over 160 million people.
In June this year, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) sued the Federal Government and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola over “their collective failure, refusal and/or negligence to enforce their own directives to electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) to provide free prepaid meters to all Nigerians and end the use of patently illegal, arbitrary, unfair and discriminatory estimated billing across the country.”
“Fashola’s constitutional and statutory responsibility is not just to give directives to DISCOs to provide free prepaid meters to all Nigerians but also to decisively enforce such directives and end the use of estimated billing.
Effective access to electricity includes metering of all consumers. It is the responsibility of the Federal Government which has been assigned to Fashola, and he cannot shy away from it,” said the organisation in the suit.
This month, Fashola directed the customers to self-finance their meter acquisition with their DISCOs and the same time urging DISCOs to meter their customers. Certainly this is a recipe for chaos. Customers believe the DISCOs have no motivation to provide meters because they enjoy issuing estimated bills. The regulator is seen as incompetent or conniving with fraudulent operators.
Meanwhile Nigeria’s tiny neighbour Ghana with a national electricity company mandates that meters are not for sale. Meters are devices installed in the customer’s premises to measure and record the amount of electricity supplied over a period of time.
The electricity company of Ghana installs two kinds of meters, in customers’ premises: the post-paid and pre–paid meters and the meters are the property of the company.
To acquire the service, customer pays an installation and maintenance fee and not the price of the Meter and they are issued official receipts. A meter is issued for use in a specific location and is not transferable to another point. Even a shift of the Meter’s position within the same premises must be approved and carried out by ECG.
Only authorized representatives of the ECG relocate, remove or disconnect a Meter on the premises of a customer. Meter tampering is illegal and offenders are arrested and prosecuted. They are also meant to pay for replacement meters. The meters are manufactured mostly in Ghana, while some come from Singapore, India, and China.
Customers apply for meters by filling an application form at the customer service centre. After that, the customer is notified via text or phone call for the day of the site inspection within a week.
Based on the outcome of the inspection, a customer is either given a quotation to pay or asked to make changes to qualify for service. After payment, a contractor is assigned to undertake that service for the customer.
When the meters are destroyed, ECG replaces them at no cost to the customer unless the customer is found culpable of destroying it.