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Eko Disco,Trojan Estate’s violation of NERC metering regulation spurs protests

RESIDENTS of Royal Garden Estate at Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lagos State, came out en masse on Thursday, May 30, to protest the arbitrary charges, lack of transparency, accountability, and the use of bulk metering within the estate by the Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) in collusion with the Trojan Estate Limited.

Trojan Estate Limited is the developer in charge of Royal Garden Estate, which Rilwan Olakunle Tinubu currently manages.

They were alleged to have violated the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) 2015 order which nullified the use of bulk metering in households under Sam Amadi, its former boss.

The NERC had in 2015 agreed with the Senate’s position on the need to eliminate the practice of bulk-billing residential customers and replace the practice with individual metering and billing.

Amadi also confirmed to The ICIR that NERC issued an order to correct possible exploitation of consumers through bulk metering.

“We issued an order at that time to correct possible exploitation in bulk metering. It is an order we have to avoid possible overcharging of electricity consumers. In the order, we demand that the Disco meter them differently,”Amadi told The ICIR.

To further bolster this fact, NERC had previously abolished bulk billing in its ruling on the VGC Case No: NERC/H/03/07 in 2008.

Despite the ruling being in the favour of the customers, the EKEDC has continued to use bulk metering.

This time, residents of Royal Garden Estate said the bulk metering was being done in collusion with the estate developers -Trojan Estate – and had led to arbitrary service charges and constant blackouts, which has drastically increased security challenges in the estate.

In a protest led by the estate executives, the estate’s former executive member, Henry Onaga, said it had been a running battle with the Trojan Estate and everything started as a result of the developers refusing to sign the Service Level Agreement (SLA) which has been on since 2018.

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Receipt showing evidence of payment to Eko DisCo
Receipt showing evidence of payment to Eko Disco

The Royal Garden Estate, Anthony Ogbebor, who spoke via telephone, said the SLA helped to bring transparency in the process of managing the estate.

“Before 2012, this document did not exist, when we went to court, the developers generated an SLA and gave it to the new buyers and the old ones. We took them to court and the court clearly stated that if this document was available before the estate came into existence and before everyone came, it is valid. But since it is otherwise, you must carry the residence along.

“So, this means that both the residents and the estate must develop an SLA to be valid. Around 2018 and 2019, the document was updated. It was just to get it to the Trojan management to sign but they refused to sign the SLA,” he said.

In his submission, Onaga said, “It has been a running battle to get the Trojan Estates Limited, the developers of Royal Gardens of this estate to act within the law. However, the essence of the protest is to ensure the disconnection of “illegal bulk metering of power supply to the estate.”

According to Onaga, the estate developers have been in cohort with the EKEDC to surcharge residents for power supply.

“The EKEDC, in collaboration with the developers of this estate, has refused to hear from us and has been imposing bulk metering on us. They’ve put us on Band A from 66 per kilowatt energy to 225 per kilowatt energy. It has become impossible for us to pay for power and the estate has been thrown into darkness. This has increased insecurity within the estate,” he added

Ogbebor further said charges were much, arbitrary and unbearable for the residents.

His words, “Before, once we bought the card, light would be on, and it could only be off when the card is exhausted. But now, we don’t enjoy that again with the use of the bulk metre system. In the bulk metre system, whether we use electricity or not, our bill is reading and we must pay.

“If they bring the month of April bill and add it to the existing bill, we’ll be seeing something close to N250 to N300 million  as our bill for just two months.”

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A copy of the electricity bill obtained revealed that N174 million was levied on the estate as the energy charge for April while N187 million was calculated as the bill for the current month, which the estate must pay.

Meanwhile, residents have demanded that the estate developers end the insecurity within the  estate, which they said was aided by the non-availability of electricity supply to power street lights.

They also sought the dismantling of the bulk metre system which they said had worsened power supply in the estate.

Besides, they want the service levels agreement (SLA) signed by the developers.

Eko DisCo’s response

The EKEDC’s General Manager of Corporate Communications, Babatunde Lasaki, said he was not privy to any NERC regulations impeding the distribution company from stopping the use of bulk metering.

Lasaki, who took nearly four hours to decide on granting an interview after abruptly ending the first call, confirmed that not only Royal Garden Estate uses bulk metering but the EKEDC ensured that more estates use it.

“I don’t know about the NERC regulations that say that bulk metering is illegal. There are many estates on bulk metering. So, as regards Royal Garden Estate, what happened was that they’ve been on bulk metering and they pay on bulk payment. So, what happened recently is they’re owning as a result of an increase in the type of band they are in because they are on a dedicated feeder.




     

     

    ‘So they’re owning and they were disconnected because they did not remit their payment for the previous one. That was the situation. I don’t know about the allegation that we’re colluding with one company or the other. What happened was that they pay as their estate and we provide services to them.”

    While the residents of Royal Garden Estate said Trojan Estate refused to sign the SLA since 2018, Lasaki said EKEDC had an SLA already signed with the estate management, which they’ve been following.

    “I don’t know where they’re getting their readings from. They’ve not complained about us. We don’t deal with individual customers, we deal with estate management. If they have any problems, they should engage with their estate management.

    “What we know is that we’ve been servicing them based on the SLA we have with them and they’ve been paying. They were disconnected because of the new rate which they were unable to pay. So, any other issue has to be sorted out between their estate management and the residents.”

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