Stakeholders in the Nigerian electricity supply industry have urged the President Bola Tinubu-led administration to employ better arrangements to boost prepaid meter production, even as it embarks on a new initiative announced in January.
This is as electricity customers subjected to estimated billing have expressed dissatisfaction over the monthly bills issued to them by distribution companies (DisCos).
In an interview, executive director PowerUp Nigeria, advised that the government should invest in local manufacturers to boost availability of meters in the country.
According to him, there is a need for a deliberate policy that could drive the active participation of all stakeholders. He said this will help check cases of corruption, which he said was a setback to previous programmes.
He said: “The way we can address this shortage of meters is to patronise local meter manufacturers, bring these manufacturers in as investors. This will build their capacity and it will also create jobs for our people. The government should remove the sales and distribution of meters from the distribution companies.
“I have always demanded that local meter manufacturing should be a deliberate policy of the government, and we have also advised several times on how this can be achieved. Instead of the government borrowing to pay subsidies, that kind of resource should be focused on metering and network improvements.
“On the issue of subsidy, it is a slow poison that keeps strangling the fovernment, and we have already made our position known to them. Subsidy is unsustainable, and should be removed.”
Bolarinwa Atilade, vice chairman Unistar Hi-teck System, an indigenous meter manufacturing firm, said the government needs to adopt the stick and carrot approach to achieve full metering coverage.
He said that meter manufacturing is currently being affected by the high rate of foreign exchange as most materials used for manufacturing are imported.
“Considering how high the exchange rate is, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission is still expecting us to sell meters at the same price as when FX was N850. We are currently in a situation where manufacturers cannot generate monies invested in manufacturing these meters.
“As meter manufacturers, we are interested in this business; we have set up a factory, but the environment is making us look like we do not know what we are doing.”
He stressed the need for the government to work with all stakeholders and agree on specific mandates in achieving metering, and “not a few people deciding what happens.”
Sharing his ordeal with BusinessDay, a resident at the Lugbe axis of Abuja who is serviced under the estimated billing system lamented that the monthly bills being issued were outrageous.
According to him, the bill increases monthly, even when he cuts down his electricity consumption.
He said: “This estimated billing is just not working for me. The bills I get every month keeps going high; even when I’m not using electricity, I still get bills. I don’t understand.
“We have applied for prepaid meters through the landlord but it’s not forthcoming. I cannot keep paying as high as N25,000 for electricity every month.”
A businessman at the central business district in Abuja who identified himself simply as John decried the irregularities in the estimated billing system. For him, it does not enable him to make proper business plans.
He said: “Whether you use the power or not, you will pay. And the charges are always different and higher, which do not enable us to plan as people in business. We just live based on whatever the DisCos bill us to pay and it is not good for our business.
“But if it is prepaid meters, you can easily switch it off, and save power but when you do estimated billing, you pay even for times there were no power. So we pay for electricity we hardly use, and it is higher.”