No fewer than two electricity consumer groups have called for stiff sanctions against seven electricity distribution companies (DisCos) for failing to implement the order on capping estimated billing of their customers.
The groups, the Energy Consumer Rights and Responsibilities Initiative (ECRRI) and All Electricity Consumers Protection Forum (AECPF) made the calls in an intterview on Wednesday in Lagos.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had threatened to sanction the DisCos over their failure to comply with the Order 197/2020 on capping of unmetered R2 and C1 electricity customers.
R2 and C1 are residential and commercial categories of electricity consumers respectively.
The affected DisCos – Benin, Enugu, Eko, Ikeja, Kano, Kaduna and Port Harcourt – were given 14 days, beginning from June 4, to explain why the commission should not sanction them over their alleged non-compliance.
Reacting to the development, Mr Sural Fadairo, National President, ECRRI, said NERC must step up its regulatory duties by ensuring full compliance with its orders and directives.
“The threat to sanction the erring DisCos is a welcome development.
“We believe that the industry will not make much progress until the DisCos start complying fully with NERC’s directives.
“NERC should be able to wield the big stick on the DisCos from time to time because its duty is to ensure compliance with policies that are beneficial to all stakeholders in the electricity sector,’’ Fadairo said.
He noted that sanctioning the DisCos would also spur them to accelerate metering of customers in their areas of coverage.
“Majority of electricity consumers in Nigeria are still on estimated billing system and are being exploited by the DisCos with crazy bills.
“That is why NERC tried to intervene in the matter by placing a cap on how much can be issued to the affected customers until such a time that their meters are installed.
“These DisCos, however, failed to comply with the order and have continued to issue exorbitant estimated bills to their customers.’’
Also, Mr Adeola Samuel-Ilori, National Coordinator, AECPF, said NERC had on Feb. 20 abolished the era of the estimated methodology of billing by DisCos and replaced it with capping method.
“When the capping order was released with an express directive in paragraph A of the order that estimated method has been repealed and replaced with capping method, we thought the discos can’t circumvent the implementation.
“However, by the time the implementation took place in March bill, our group were inundated with calls and messages to the effect that the bill received for that month was not only astronomical but beyond capping and former estimated bill previously received put together.
“We noticed that the same thing happened in April and we had to petition the DisCos.
“The response we got was that they are investigating and will come out with a position.
“We see this directive of notice of intention to sanction erring discos as a welcome development and look forward to a regulatory body that can bark and bite this time,’’ Samuel-Ilori said.
He, therefore, urged NERC to be more proactive in attending to consumer complaints in order to fulfil its statutory obligation of being fair and balanced in dealing with consumers and distribution companies.