The Executive Director, Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria, Mrs Sola Salako-Ajulo, says many electricity consumers are aggrieved that they are forced to pay for electric power they did not consume.
Salako-Ajulo spoke at a Power Sector Stakeholders and Consumers Summit organised by the Electricity Consumer Protection Forum on Wednesday in Lagos.
According to Ngige the forum, tagged: “Five Years after Privatisation of Power Sector, What Next?” brought together stakeholders in the power sector and consumers in the state.
Salako-Ajulo said that the first step to stop such exploitation remained proper enumeration of electricity consumers and provision of meters.
She described the practice of estimated billing as illegal.
“Our problem is not that they are not giving us power; our problem is that you are charging us for what we don’t consume.
“We must be sincere in this country. Every house should have a meter,” she said.
Mr Adeola Ilori, the National Coordinator of the forum, also said that electricity consumers had suffered much in the hands of the Gencos and Discos.
Ilori said that the privatisation of the power sector had not reduced the trauma of electricity consumers, five years after.
“The money people pay for electricity is far higher than the rent.
“Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has not been playing its role. How long again will it take the issue of estimated billing to become a thing of the past?
“How long will consumers bear the cost of providing transformers, wire, cables and poles for a private profit-oriented organisation to serve them when the costs of such are already infused into monthly tariff?
“How long are we going to watch regulatory body behaving like an ostrich to the plight of the consumers?
“Our group and members are ready to defend themselves against any form of oppression, deliberate and willful disobedience of extant laws,” Ilori, a legal practitioner said.
Representatives of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) and the Association of Power Generation Companies (APGC), on their part, listed challenges to having uninterrupted power supply in the country.
In his speech, Mr Sunday Oduntan, the Executive Director, ANED (Research and Advocacy) said that insincerity to people on electricity since 1960 had affected positive result in power generation, transmission and distribution.
Oduntan spoke on the topic: “Are we better in service delivery than the older order? How can it be improved?”
According to him, the population of the country, estimated at over 180 million, is higher than the megawatts being generated and distributed to the people.
He said this was a challenge to enjoyment of uninterrupted power supply in the country.
Oduntan listed other challenges facing power sector to include regulations, government’s failure to fulfill promises to investors, gas shortage and energy theft.
“When there is no gas, there is no power; when there is less gas, there is less power.
“So, gas is a problem, transmission is a problem, government is a problem and consumers are also problems,” Oduntan said.
The director noted that South Africa, with 57 million population generated 41.19 megawatts while Nigeria with over 180 million generated about 5000 megawatts.
“If there is no electricity, there will not be enough jobs in Nigeria.
“We are not serving well; we need to step up our game and do better,” he said.
According to him, Discos know that provision of transformers, wires, cables and poles are their responsibility, but there are challenges in meeting demands of the consumers.
The director condemned power theft and huge indebtedness by consumers.
He urged people to expose power theft around them, as others end up paying for the theft.
On meters, Oduntan said that every household is entitled to one, either prepaid or postpaid.
He urged the people to exercise patience.
The director advocated synergy among critical stakeholders and government agencies on power.
He said that if government, NERC, Gencos and Discos fail to work together, there won’t be power.
Also speaking, Dr Joy Ogaji, the Executive Secretary, APGC, noted that 27 Gencos had been licensed by NERC to generate power.
She said that that the companies had the capacity to generate more than 40, 000 megawatts.
Ogaji delivered a paper on “Gencos, the Unseen hands in Electricity supply chain – The good, the bad, the ugly and future”.
She said that the major challenge was the transmission of the power to consumers.
According to her, the Gencos have been generating between 7000 and 8000 megawatts, but could not get to the consumers due to poor transmission network.
“There has not been investment in the distribution.
“The transmission company cannot take more than 5000. The Gencos have the capacity to give Nigeria up to 40 000 megawatts, but there is no network to transmit them.
“We have enough power. There is no avenue to pass it across to the people.
“Gencos are up to the task and have even exceeded the power target given to them.
“Government also must keep promises. I agree that in the next five years, Nigeria cannot get to its Eldorado’s in power supply,”Ogaji said.
A University teacher, Dr Yemi Oke, delivering a paper on “Expository Analysis of Electric Sector Reform Act, 2005; the Rights of Consumers and Obligations” said that electricity consumers were protected under the law.
Oke, an Associate Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, said that Nigerians had a right to electricity, a right to properly installed and functional meters and a right to transparent electricity dealings.
According to him, electricity services consumers have a right to report when over-billed and contest any electric bill.
“It is criminal to use electricity and not pay and it is fraudulent to pay for electricity not used.
“The challenge of power is not that of Gencos or Discos alone, but all.
“Gas is a problem. The law is problematic. The sector is now over- regulated,” the don said.