Why Discos will not end crazy bills
That the issue of erratic and non-supply of electricity to Nigerians is a daily discourse is no longer news!
Irrespective of the daily release of data by the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, that the power situation in the country has improved from the pre-2015 era, Nigerians are asking, like President Muhammadu Buhari, “where is the power”!
Fashola keeps telling Nigerians that we now generate 7,000 megawatts from the hitherto 3,000mw that President Goodluck Jonathan left in 2015. To add salt to injury, the former governor of Lagos State recently told the world that Nigerians now spend less on fuel and generators as electricity supply has improved tremendously!
While Nigerians are willing to stomach the blatant untruths, their pain is more exacerbated by the kind of bills they receive from these the electricity distribution company every month. It’s no more news that a majority of electricity consumers are being billed on estimation as they don’t have pre-paid meters that will accurately account for the voltage of electricity they consume on a daily basis.
As if that one is not enough, the Federal Government is reportedly planning to sell electricity to Burkina Faso, as according to reports, that country is willing to pay more for the electricity! The same electricity that Nigerians hardly get up to six hours a day is the one to be sold to another country! In essence, Nigeria will supply electricity to other countries like Niger, Chad etc while they supply darkness to Nigerians!
Just like the GSM revolution that came with the pay-as-you-call package, Nigerians over the years have been clamouring for pre-paid meters that will make them to not only regulate their electricity consumption but also make them to be sure that they are being charged the appropriate amount of their consumption.
Granted that this business of power generation, transmission and distribution is no mean business as it is a capital intensive venture, globally, electricity supply does not come cheap and we allude to the fact that the power sector and government daily make huge investments on generation, transmission and distribution of power to Nigerians. However, in other climes of which some of us have been privileged to visit, the issue of electricity consumption is handled with utmost caution. For instance, I have observed where people living overseas put off their bulbs once they are out of the kitchen or toilet. They only put them on when they need to use them. The reason being that leaving the light on will be extracting some points and money from their pre-paid cards which is constantly reading on usage. These are countries that even use less consuming energy-saving bulbs and gadgets, unlike in Nigeria where we leave our high voltage 100 watts bulbs from morning till night. Most people leave their security bulbs on from morning till night, day in day out. Some even leave their air-conditioning system on when leaving the house in the morning. According to them, they want to return in the night to meet their rooms chilled like cold rooms!
Be that as it may, the big question that has been begging for answer is what is the big deal in providing pre-paid meters to all electricity consumers. What stops the government and investors from flooding the country with pre-paid meter manufacturing companies that will mass-produce meters for the whole country? Nigerians are even willing to buy the meters even though the extant position of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission is that pre-paid meters are to be issued free of charge as it is the sole property of the electricity companies.
But why the crazy bill and estimated bill may not just fizzle out in a hurry is that Disco employees both at the management and field levels derive so much joy and benefit issuing out these bills to hapless Nigerians. The ladder-carrying Disco officials are at home moving ladders up and down every day from one street to the other yanking off electric wires from poles. They are comfortable extorting money ranging from N500 to N5,000 from debtor consumers which will give the defaulters interim reprieve. This attitude is the height of foolishness as the bills still remain even with the bribes given to the field workers for not cutting their electricity. With this scenario, they will do everything possible to thwart any effort to discontinue issuance of estimated bills. Doing that will automatically mean sacking lots of them. It will also mean blocking their means of illegal wealth accumulation.
A case in point is a sprawling estate along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway where residents have been crying for not only suffering from non-supply of electricity but also bombardment with outrageous and estimated bills. For instance for the month of November, in a whole week of 168 hours, electricity was supplied for just 12 hours! The painful aspect of it is that by the third week of November, the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company had brought a bill of over N125,000 for an estate with just 25 residents!
- Austine Uche-Ejeke, Magboro, Ogun State, email@example.com