Acquisition of electricity meters has been a challenge to many Nigerians, especially those in the grassroots.
Various political administrators have put in efforts at making meters available to Nigerians but the efforts have not yielded the desired expectations.
In a bid to ensure that electricity customers only pay for what they actually consume, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) approved the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) a regulation that provides for the supply, installation and maintenance of end-user meters by other parties.
The programme was designed to fast track a closure of the end-user metering gap with a view to eliminate the practice of “estimated billing” with exceptional cases envisaged under the regulation.
The regulation was expected to fast track a closure of the metering gap and encourage the development of independent and competitive meter services in the electricity industry.
MAP Regulation become effective on April 3, 2018 and introduced MAP as a new set of service providers in Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry.
The electricity distribution companies, in line with their licensing terms and conditions, were obliged to achieve their metering targets as set by the commission under the new regulation.
The introduction of MAP was to ensure that meters were made available to consumers, though in spite of the result achieved by this effort, the metering gap still existed.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has shown resolute commitment to ending the issue of estimated billing by Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) where consumers have continued to suffer extortion coupled with epileptic power supply.
In August, the President directed the introduction of The National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) with the aim of bridging Nigeria’s metering gap as an estimated 6.25 million customers remained unmetered.
The aim of the Federal Government’s NMMP is impeccable, according to the promoters of the policy.
In summary, the arrangement is meant to comply with international best practice, eliminate an obnoxious billing system that has constituted a wedge between service providers and customers, improve power supply and boost employment.
The NMMP has the following objective: to increase the Nigeria’s metering rate, elimination of arbitrary estimated billing, strengthening of the local meter value chain by increasing local meter manufacturing,
assembly and deployment capacity.
It also aimed at supporting Nigeria’s economic recovery by creating jobs in the local meter value chain, reduction of collection losses and increasing financial flows to achieve 100% market remittance obligations of the DisCos, improve network monitoring capability and availability of data for market administration and investment decision making.
As an indication of the Federal Government’s commitment to the mass metering programme, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently released the Framework for financing of National Mass Metering Programme (the Framework).
The Framework outlines the operational modalities of the CBN’s financing support to the Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) and local meter manufacturers in Nigeria.
Under the Presidential Mass Metering Initiative, the government is making funds available for the DisCos to roll out one million meters in the first phase, at no cost to consumers, with deployment starting in Kano, Kaduna, Lagos and Abuja
Future plans of this metering initiative will help to fully meet the 6.5 million of meters nationwide and will impact an estimated 30 million consumers.
All meters under this programme would be sourced from local manufacturers and in-country stock, to create jobs.
“We are committed to ending estimated billing in all forms in Nigeria, and ensuring that Nigerians pay only for the electricity they consume,” it said.
The roll out of the mass metering was a step in the right direction as it would help create jobs and strengthen genuine efforts to tackle the nation’s unemployment rate.
The Minister of Power, Mr Sale Mamman, in Yola recently at the inauguration of the mass metering programme for the Yola Electricity Distribution Company, said that the implementation of the mass metering programme was beginning to yield result.
“I am glad that Nigeria has finally gotten it right on the long existing challenges of metering consumption in the country.
“It is with great pleasure that I stand before you at this landmark event to inaugurate the intervention policy of the Federal Government towards closing the metering gap in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry.
“This occasion is a clear testimony of Yola Electricity Distribution Company’s (YEDC) commitment to providing its customers enhanced service delivery,’’ he said.
The minister said that the Nigerian electricity market had for many years struggled with inadequate revenues, thus creating significant liquidity challenge for all market participants in the value chain.
He said that one of the major contributors to the funding challenge was the low level of metering for end-users.
According to him, this is the principal reason for customer resistance to payment of electricity bills due to the perceived lack of confidence and trust in estimated billing.
“The often-repeated reason for the low level of metering has been attributed to the inability of Distribution Companies (DisCos) to raise financing for the purchase of meters,’’ he said.
The minister also commended President Muhammadu Buhari for supporting the DisCos with the much-needed financing toward the bulk acquisition of meters.
He described the intervention of the CBN in the provision of long-term low interest funds to the DisCos as a boost to the sector.
“I am especially happy to inform you that the Federal Government of Nigeria has granted Yola Distribution Company a soft loan of N5,061 billion for sourcing of 85,376 meters.
“This meter comprises 62,324 single-phase and 23,052 three-phase meters under phase zero (0) of the National Mass Metering programme. I thus call on the management of YEDC to make good use of this facility to significantly reduce the Aggregate Technical Commercial and Collection (ATC&C) losses which negatively affects the revenue stream of the company.
“I also urge you to use the facility to improve electricity supply to your esteemed and valuable customers,’’ he said.
Mamman called on customers of YEDC to desist from by-passing electricity meters.
According to the minister, this is not only on account of protecting the revenues of the DisCo, but more importantly, for the safety of customers as there have been reports of consumers losing lives in the course of by-passing meters.
Mamman also urged customers to be patient as it would take some time to install the thousands of meters needed to close the metering gap.
The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) recently commenced the metering of 900,000 customers at N93 billion under the National Free Mass Metering Programme.
AEDC’s Managing Director, Mr Ernest Mupwaya, said that the amount will be sufficient to meter all customers including replacement of defective meters.
According to him, “between now and December 2021 AEDC planned to install over 101,000 meters at a cost of N6 billion without charging customers.
“The rest of the meters will be installed 18 months after, through a comprehensive role out programme that will result in simultaneous installations in all three states of Niger, Kogi and Nassarawa in addition to FCT.”
He explained that with the project, the Federal Government has activated its 40 per cent shares in the company.
Mupwaya said the significance of the programme is that it has been designed with sufficient resources to meter all customers.
‘ ‘The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) who has 40 per cent shareholding, have sourced sufficient funding to support Discos through a low-interest shareholder.
“This will make it possible for Discos to receive sufficient meters to close the metering gap for good,“ he said.
He said that the company has embarked on various metering initiatives such as Credit Advanced Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) and Meter Asset Provider (MAP).
These programmes, he said, have achieved some successes that resulted in metering of over 300,000 customers.
The Managing Director said “with the flag-off of this National Free Mass Programme, AEDC will receive a total of 900,000 meters, at the cost of N93billion.
“The metering of customers has a huge positive implication not only to the electricity industry but to the entire economy in a number of ways.
“Firstly, massive metering will create jobs through installation and inspections of meters after installations.”
The AEDC boss said other jobs will be created in meter manufacturing, logistics, and supply chains associated with making meters available in Nigeria.
He added that massive metering will improve the transparency in electricity transactions which will result in increased revenues that can be channeled into service improvement.
“Improved services, according to him, will support improved economic activities that will impact both informal and formal sectors,” he said.
Mupwaya said this will lead to electricity industry transformation along with numerous spillover effects on the economy.
He appealed to customers to accept the meters and resist any attempt by unscrupulous people who may approach them, with an offer to compromise the meters.
He revealed that the NERC has put in place punitive penalties for those caught bypassing the meter to the extent that the fines override the perceived benefit apart from damaging the good working relationship with the Discos. (NAN Features)
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