Reporter : CHRISTIAN NWANGENE
Despite the Federal Government directives to electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) to meter every electricity customer in Nigeria for free before the end of 2020, Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) is yet to commence the process.
EEDC had also failed to confirm whether southeast would benefit or not from the free meter distribution or number of prepaid meters allocated to the region.
Electricity consumers in Enugu have continued to groan over dubious and outrageous estimated bills by the power distribution company, EEDC.
In October 2020, the Federal Government said it would install at least six million meters for electricity consumers through its mass metering programme by December, 2020.
The Special Adviser to the President on Infrastructure, Mr. Ahmed Zakari, at a stakeholders’ engagement on electricity tariff, organised by the FGN/NLC-TUC Ad-hoc Committee warned that the Federal Government would sanction any official of electricity distribution companies (DisCos) who sold prepaid meters to customers.
“We have made it clear through the regulator’s direct order as well as the intervention from the Ministry of Power that these meters are to be provided to Nigerians at no cost.
“Even for meters that will be paid for through the MAP, there is a directive from the regulator to the DisCos that they need to find a way to reimburse citizens over time.
“If we find any disco or its representatives selling these meters or exploiting Nigerians to be able to get them, we will sanction such DisCo.
“Though it is our belief that everyone will be obliged to do the right thing, we will still be vigilant and monitor developments.” Zakari said.
However, after two months of the warning by the Federal Government, many homes in Enugu State are yet to be metered just as electricity consumers in the State have continued to pay for meters and extorted excessively in the name of estimated bills by the electricity providers.
An Enugu based Legal Practitioner, Mr. Chukwunonso Daniel Ogbe, noted that estimated billing system still being enforced by EEDC was insensitive and unjust practice against the people of South-East geopolitical zone.
According to Mr. Ogbe, the policy of estimated billing for energy in the area had crippled many businesses of emerging entrepreneurs.
“Without the National Electricity Regulatory Commission doing much in calling EEDC to order, outrageous and callous bills are being issued to consumers of electricity in the South-East geopolitical zone by EEDC with unmetered consumers of electricity being coerced into a state of hopelessness.
“Furthermore, the recent moves being made by the relevant authorities under the MAP scheme to distribute prepaid meters to consumers of electricity in the South-East and other parts of Nigeria, is a welcome development; only that it seems the smooth implementation of the policy may be stifled by some humanly propelled factors when it is to be given life.
“I know as a fact that people still pay to obtain prepaid meters in the South-East till date. Paying for prepaid meter is not the major challenge being faced by most of these hapless consumers; as it takes months for such meters paid for by consumers to be installed in the premises of the concerned citizens.
“This line of action, I reasonably believe, is being projected by EEDC in order to create room for corrupt enrichment of EEDC officials who make unjustifiable and outrageous profit from estimated billing system at the expense of the Nigerian people,” Mr. Ogbe cried out.
Also another respondent, Sister Chinakpom Okafor, said paying for prepaid meter was not her problem, but that it took months for such meters paid for by consumers to be installed.
I’ve three phases before and they said I should continue with that phase and I said no that, I’m not doing anything with that three phase, rather they should give me one phase. They said okay, they would look into it, so it has taken them a lot of time before they could do something about it.
“Now I’ve been requesting for that Meter, there was a number they gave to me for it, so it has been a long process. I’ve been going there every time, if they go no result, they will not answer me. Then later they sent me a message to come and pay 48,000.00 for the meter, now I don’t have that money to obtain the meter for now.
“They’ve been been giving me estimated bill, the first one they gave me for two months, they gave me 58,000.00. so, I went to their office and was crying that 58,000.00 for two months was too much and I can’t pay it. They asked me how much I would pay and I said 40,000.00, they said okay, they prepared bill for forty-thousand, and I paid that without knowing that the remaining amount was kept and was adding it in subsequent bills.
“So, for two months they will be charging me up to fifty thousand and above, and now for four months they gave me a bill of over hundred thousand naira,” she narrated bitterly.
Sister Okafor, cried for help as agents of the EEDC had disconnected her light, leaving her in great pains, as she could not afford to pay the huge estimated bill.
Another Electricity consumer, Mr. Ben Uzoegbunam, narrated to radio Nigeria what he had gone through in the hands of EEDC.
According to Mr. Uzoegbunam, “It’s been terrible, so terrible! First of all, I applied for prepaid meter, sometime in June, 2020, it took about six to seven weeks for my demand note to come out, when it came out, I applied for one phase, but when I saw my demand note, it was carrying three phase meter.
“And the amount for three phase meter was eighty thousand naira, and then I asked them why, that I applied for one phase: two of my neighbours in the same compound already had their own, so why would my own be different?
“They said where I live had three phase, and I said okay, you can bring one phase and attach it to one of the phase there, I just wanted one phase meter because it is just a small apartment, a room and a parlour.
“And they said I should go and meet some personnel at Osimili (an EEDC Office) to remove my billing from three phase billing to one phase billing.
“When I did that, the bureaucracy was just too much, I still went back there, they weren’t doing anything about it, and still said that even if they did it, they still do not have one phase meter available to give me, that I still have to wait, that what they had in their store room was three phase meter all through. And that I still have to wait for some months to get the one phase.
“Since then till date, I’ve been on this case and they’ve been billing me terribly, the billing is just outrageous. Imagine where I stay, I stay in a room and a parlour, I get bills of sixteen thousand every month, and then with this new tarrif, it has increased to twenty-five thousand naira, and so, I can’t be paying it alone, and whenever I go out, nobody is using the light at home. I stay alone, and I don’t even stay in the house often, so I can’t understand why I should be paying twenty-five thousand naira every month, how much is the house rent? It is just a terrible experience, and up until now, I’ve not been able to sort it out with them.”
Efforts by Radio Nigeria to get the reaction of the Head, Corporate Communications, Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, (EEDC) Mr. Emeka Ezeh, failed as he neither responded to our text messages nor picked his calls.