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How customers keep paying for meters after suspension

Following the suspension of the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Initiative (CAPMI) last November, some customers are still raising bank drafts to the Distribution Companies…

Following the suspension of the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Initiative (CAPMI) last November, some customers are still raising bank drafts to the Distribution Companies (DisCos) to be metered, the Daily Trust reports.

CAPMI was launched by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to enable electricity customers pay and get meters faster from the 11 DisCos and stop the estimated billing system. They were to be refunded their payments with a 12 per cent interest through electricity tokens on their meters within two to three years.

The scheme which became pronounced from 2014 had more customers paying but few metered, with a huge backlog from the DisCos. NERC intervened in 2015 by giving DisCos 60 day ultimatum to meter any fresh application.

The scheme was however suspended in November 2016 by NERC with a directive that all backlogs should be cleared at once and fresh payment restricted. Though the reason NERC gave for suspending the scheme remains vague, there have been many arguments to it.

NERC itself had advanced dissatisfaction with the DisCos in April 2016, when the then Acting Chairman, Dr. Anthony Akah, scolded the DisCos for not doing enough to meter customers, throwing their balance behind payment made under CAPMI before they could provide meters.

NERC officials said the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, was also displeased threatening to suspend the scheme earlier than it happened.

A report released by NERC in April 2016 indicated that the 11 Discos had 6.160million registered accounts of customers out of which 3.207 million households were metered. About 2.953million were without meters.

The report shows that out of the 403,255 meters procured between 2013 and March 2016, representing 12% of the registered population after the privatisation, customers financed the installation of 7.5% (251,531 meters) under CAPMI. The Discos financed only 4.5% which is 151,724 meters from the privatisation date in 2013 to early 2016.

Since February 2017, two months after the scheme’s suspension, our reporter observed that some customers still raising bank drafts and submitting to DisCos in anticipation of getting meters.

Customers applying for a single phase unit said they pay about N24,800 while those applying for three-phase unit pay about N53,000 by raising bank drafts in favour of a DisCo’s official name, and waiting for 60 days for the meter installation as it was done during the CAPMI era.

A customer of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), Kingsley I., at Dutse in Abuja who presented his evidence of payment said he raised the draft and submitted for onward metering. “We have high bills in our area ranging from N30,000 to N100,000 and so they told us AEDC is still accepting payment for meters through bank draft which a handful of us did. Some of us even paid N5,000 in cash for what some officials tag as processing fee,” he told Daily Trust.

In Mararaba area under AEDC, Mr. Abbas J. said he was told by AEDC officials that payment for meter under CAPMI is ongoing. “The officials said they are still collecting at the Abacha road Zonal office,” he said.

Mr. Sule Ali, a resident of Mararaba said his landlord recently raised a bank draft for AEDC after some officials visited their residence threatening to cut off. “It is not a bad move as long as it will stop the estimated billing. My landlord paid about N24,000 and N53,000 for both single and triple phase meters for his block of flats,” he noted.

At Sabo area in Kaduna South under Kaduna Electric, some customers said officials of the DisCo have come to tell them to pay for meters under CAPMI. “We delegated a member to raise drafts for the smart prepaid meters for compounds in the area and they have been submitted hoping we will get meters,” Mr. Tanko Bobboi who is a member of the committee on electricity in the area said.

Responding to the issue of payment for meters under AEDC, the spokesman, Ahmed Shekarau ,said it could be a misinterpretation by customers. He said the Head Office was duly contacted that some huge debtors approached its officials with bank drafts desperately seeking for meters.

“In view of the debts of the customers, those staff were asked to collect the drafts, not as payment for meters but in respect of liquidation of the customers’ debts while the requests of those customers for meters are being processed. And those staff have been asked to explain this clearly to the affected customers,” he explained.

AEDC in the response said it does not charge for meters. “We also wish to use this medium to advise customers to be careful about those they deal with because, we have a few cases where some persons working for organisations engaged by our company as meter installers collected money from some gullible customers purportedly for the sake of providing them with meters. 

“One of such persons has since been arrested by officers from our Apo Area Office and has since been handed over to security agents for prosecution, while one or two others are at large,” Shekarau said.

Kaduna Electric spokesman, Abdullazeez Abdullahi, said customers have been told to report frivolous cases of officials collecting money for meters to the DisCo. He said meters are currently being installed in places without payment.

 

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