The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) have jointly resolved to enforce the mandatory 60-day Order to electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) to either meter or stop billing consumers under the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) scheme.
NERC had, in its recent directive to the nation’s electricity distribution companies, ordered that “customer who elects to procure meters under the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) must be metered within 60 days, failure in which the electricity customer will neither be billed nor disconnected by the electricity distribution company”.
In order to give a bite to the order, the two agencies during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the headquarters of CPC on Tuesday agreed to collaborate to enforce the implementation of the Order and other steps that would ensure conducive environment for consumers and investors in the sector.
The Director General of CPC, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, had condemned the seeming foot-dragging of DISCOs in metering consumers as outlined in their performance agreements with the government and yet have been committed in billing millions of consumers through estimated billings.
Mrs.Atoki admitted that though the problem of metering in the country is deep-rooted, consumers should not be made to bear the brunt for so long without an end in sight, stressing that “consumers who are paying for services that they have not fully enjoyed need protection”.
According to her, “we understand that the way the CAPMI system was introduced is to buffer the operators and to help them in the infrastructural challenge they have by making consumers to pay upfront”, stressing further that “if consumers at the end don’t get the required supply of electricity and their funds is being used to support the infrastructural deficiency, then we wonder how that can rest well with us.
“It will therefore not be fair for consumers to continue to pay for metres when the metres are not installed at the prescribed period and they are being charged arbitrarily” she said, adding that “I believe NERC has come up with a very sound directive that all consumers who have paid for metres should not be disconnected or billed if the metres have not been provided”.
The CPC boss asserted further: “That CPC welcomes. It is a show of interest in the consumer sector and we are willing to work with NERC to implement this, such that consumers will be comforted that at last their interest is being considered. We are very excited about it and we are very interested in monitoring the implementation of the directive”.
Mrs Atoki commended NERC for its desire to have an enhanced collaboration with the Council, claiming that this is in line with her vision to work with relevant government agencies for the betterment of consumers, stating that a situation where a sector regulator builds walls around its areas of regulation is detrimental to the welfare of consumers.
Earlier, the acting Chairman of NERC, Dr. Anthony Akah, said “this collaboration with the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), which is statutorily empowered to deal with all issues relating to consumers of goods and services in Nigeria, is a step in the right direction”.
Akah hinted that NERC is determined to “intensify enforcement of consumer protection regulations on metering, billing and the perennial complaints of estimated customers”, adding that “there shall be concerted efforts aimed at greatly reducing the incidence of estimated billing and eventually eliminating them completely. The increasing incident of vandalisation of electricity infrastructure, stealing of electricity, hostility to operators are also issues we hope to jointly address”.
He also pointed out that his commission would ensure strict adherence to the meter roll-out plan of discos as enunciated in their performance agreements as well as reiterated NERC’s non-tolerance statement on “wrongful estimates, compelling customers to buy, install and repair transformers, poles, unsafe electrical connections and other unsafe practices and will monitor strict compliance.
“The commission is convinced that by this collaboration with the Consumer Protection Council and a robust enforcement drive by the commission, the Nigerian electricity Supply industry will operate in conducive environment for both investors and the consumers”, he added.