Maintenance Charge: PowerUpNG Blasts NERC, Discos For Exploiting Nigerians

PowerUpNigeria is an advocate of fair Electricity Distribution and Billing Forum. We are driven by the desire for consumers to be fairly treated and to make sure as watchdogs, Electricity Distributors follow the laid down regulations by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

We hereby state categorically that we support with no reservation, the unbundling of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) vis-à-vis, the privatization of key structures in the power generation, transmission and distribution in Nigeria. We believe this is the way forward for our dear country.

In a country where our estimated power requirement stands at over 60,000MW, we are presently able to generate a meagre 4000MW (at peak), which put us at below 10% performance. It is glaring that there is little the government can do, hence the need to involve private investors with the financial muscle and technical expertise to move the power sector forward.

The National Electricity Regulation Commission, headed by Dr Sam Amadi, acting through the National Electricity Regulation Gazette of 2005, unbundled PHCN with eleven (11) Electricity Distribution Company emerging from the organisation.

While we Support the privatization of electricity distribution for better performance, we frown, and condemn the resulting exploitation of consumers, in the name of “Maintenance Service Charge” or “Fixed Charge”, and the unreasonable “Estimated Billing”, which has caused so many families untold pains, not minding the hardship the present inadequate power situations has put Nigerians.

To guard against these unforeseen circumstances, the brains behind the power sector reforms created the NERC to help regulate the activities of the would-be private investors. Aside this, there are also gazetted policies, as captured in the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (No. 6 of 2005), that guides the relationship between these private investors and their customers.Again Consumers are Kings.

While we do not accuse the NERC, under the leadership of Dr Sam Amadi, of colluding with the Discos to cheat Nigerians, all reasonable evidence points to the fact that the NERC, has been turning a blind eye to their activities.

To start with, consumers in all over Nigeria are paying Electricity Usage Tax in the name of Maintenance/Fixed Service Charge. It has also been confirmed that Electricity Consumers in Lagos are paying a lot higher than Consumers in other parts of Nigeria.

For Instance; Customers of Ikeja Distribution Company and EKO Distribution Company are paying N750 monthly Maintenance Charge.

This is not in tandem with what their counterpart in Ibadan Distribution Company are paying, which is N500.

Imagine a fee of N750 per house in Lagos alone; multiply by 1, 000,000 houses, N750, 000,000 without lifting a finger, for doing nothing.

The question to NERC is: Of what benefit, and to whose benefit is this Maintenance Charge, or Fixed Charge? To What end? Whose pocket is it going? Is it just to benefit the Private Electricity Distributors?

This is simply another Electricity Usage Charge on Nigerians, and it SHOULD BE STOPPED WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT.

The Second important issue is “The Estimated Billing”. The ELECTRIC POWER SECTOR REFORM ACT (No. 6 of 2005) stipulate:

Where there is no electricity meter to record electricity usage at a Customer’s supply address, a Distribution Company shall base the Customer’s bill on an estimated energy consumption which shall be calculated in accordance with a method approved by the Commission.

The NERC has failed to explain to consumers who are groaning under the weight of this unreasonable billing how they came about the estimated bills, or how the figures are arrived at.

It also follows that since billing of consumers would be an issue for the new investors, Installations of New Meters and Metering tools should have been the first immediate concern of the NERC, and priority of the Distribution Companies, but alas, as we speak, even NERC is still promising that this will be done without timeline and guidelines.

This injustice cannot be allowed to continue. As representative of the generality of already downtrodden and oppressed Nigerians, who are taxed multiple times for the benefit of rich few, resist any further effort of the NERC to shack their responsibilities of defending the millions of Nigerians who are already suffering the ripple effects of inadequate power.

We therefore demand that:

1.  The illegal and oppressive N750 Fixed Charge  be REMOVED immediately,

2.  A proper audit of every house be carried out, and the concept of “Estimated Billing” should be done according to the regulations. and the formular for estimated billing must also be revealed to Consumers,

3.  Lastly, the Electricity Distribution Companies should start the installations of Meters immediately.

If there is no responsive action from ALL Authorities involved across the country, we would be forced to seek further legal and industrial actions.

We have suffered enough in Nigeria.

Thank you,

God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Adetayo Adegbemle

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