Opinion: An open letter to Babatunde Fashola – A solution to the metering problem

By Adetayo Adegbemle

Dear Excellency, Babatunde Fashola,

My name is Adetayo Adegbemle, the convener of PowerUp Nigeria, an Electricity Consumer Right Advocacy group that started its advocacy since January 2014, some few months after the Electric Power Sector Privatization came into effect, and I have since then gone public with various positions and recommendations for the way forward.

This was made imperative basically because we found out that there was no effort from the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry (NESI)- both the operators and regulators, to educate Nigerians on what privatization entails, and how Consumers are affected, or at least educate on what the new Electric Power Sector Reform act means.

PowerUp Nigeria started the first Town Hall Meeting anywhere in Nigeria, in fact, Lagos State Energy Board was in attendance at a number of them while you were the Governor of Lagos State.

One of the three pronged and clear demands of PowerUp Nigeria from inception was the removal of the nebulous Fixed Charge element of the Electricity Tariff, of which we are glad that reasons has finally prevailed, and has been removed. Thanks to all Nigerians for this. Other are immediate installation of Meters to all customers, and of course, strict adherence to the provisions of Estimated Billing as spelt out by the Electric Power Sector Reform Act.

When this new administration under President Buhari came into power, The Leadership Newspapers granted PowerUp Nigeria an interview, in which we were asked what our forecast for 2015 was, and what we expected from this new government. Our position was made, and we have been once again proved right.

Dear Sir, needless to say what the people’s reaction to your first few actions and pronouncement has been, this is not the reason why I am writing this letter.

The main reason remains the need for you to address this power sector as it concerns Consumers, and the endless outcry on outrageous bills from these discos, which has become the benchmark and birthmark of the power sector.

While I might agree that you are doing your best in providing better performance from generation, transmission and distribution, an average consumer also need to feel the empathy from the authorities while it comes to payment of bills.

One thing is certain, and very clear. The Discos, who are closest to the Consumers, and who definitely shares these outrageous bills, and are also saddled with the duty to provide Meters to their customers, have not been able to do this. We know most of them are not financially liquid, and cannot afford to effect Meter procurement, and Installations.

This problem is not a new one, and as we have done by privately advising Mr. Sam Amadi, the former NERC CEO/Chairman, I have taken it upon myself to write you an open letter.

As things stand today, Nigerians are aware that the Credit Advanced Payment Metering Initiative(CAPMI) System was sabotaged by the Distribution Companies, and which led to its failure to resolve the problem.

We have made several recommendations to NERC, and this is to make adjustment to the Metering Section of the EPSR Act to allow Independent Metering Service Providers, who will be licensed to cover specific areas, and which will make it possible for home owners to procure their meters at their own expense. This is not a strange practice, as it works in countries like South Africa, India, Kenya, and even Australia.

Dear Sir, you can imagine what the situation of Telecommunications Industry would be like if Telecoms companies are also saddled with the task of providing mobile handsets before we can use their networks. You of course have the option of buying any handset as you desire.

In appointing Independent Metering Service Providers, Metering Specifications and Standardization handbooks would be released, and Discos will be allowed to choose which companies they will work with.

Appointing Independent Metering Service Providers will further open up the Nigeria Electric Supply Industry with new investment coming into the industry, and once and for all, resolve the problem of Energy Stealing, OverBilling, NonPayment of Bills, and will also help in conserving the electricity use of people.

There is no single doubt that resolving the Metering problem will not only douse the immediate outcry of consumers, but it will also serve as the empirical background for proper data that the power sector lacks.

This will also give indigenous Meter Manufacturers the opportunity to compete, especially taking into the consideration the scarcity of Forex, and the economic glut the nation found itself today.

Dear Sir, we have turned problems in the Electric Power Sector into rocket science, and this has not benefitted anyone but a few, holding back the country eons of years.

It is a shame that today, Nigeria cannot boast of 100, 000MW at the minimum, with the attendant stunting effect on industrialization of Nigeria.

Dear Sir, as the Governor that pioneered the Lagos State Energy Board, and that has been conversant with the bottlenecks in the bureaucracies of power provisioning, one would also expect that as a Minister, one of your immediate actions would be to encourage the removal of Electric Power from the Exclusive List by sponsoring a bill to that effect. I am very certain you know what ripple effect this will have as States with resources to generate electricity and encourage industrialization would latch unto this with subsequent development of Micro-Grids, which can then evolve to help the National Grid. But alas!

If Nigeria could find a solution to the Power Sector Problems during your tenure, Nigeria will be better for it, and your name will be cemented in history. And you will only make President Muhammadu Buhari proud of his decision to appoint you in that capacity.

We cannot keep doing same thing same way, and expect different results. That we can get the desired result however, is not in doubt.

Please expect to read more from me on different issues surrounding the power sector, as I wish you the best, not because of political affiliation, but in the best interest of Nigeria.

Kind regards.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Adetayo Adegbemle is a public opinion commentator/analyst, researcher, and the convener of PowerUpNigeria, an Electric Power Consumer Right Advocacy Group, based in Lagos. (Twitter: @gbemle, @PowerUpNg)

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