THE 11 electricity distribution companies (DisCos) operating in Nigeria overbilled 5.96 million out of 11.27 million electricity consumers in the first quarter of 2023 through estimated billing, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed.
The revelation was captained in the NBS report on the proportion of metered to total customers during the reviewed period.
The development happened despite a cap on charges by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) on unmetered electricity consumption.
The NERC cap estimated billings, which took effect on February 20, 2020, ordered that all unmetered Residence 2 -R2 and Customer 1-C1, basically residential and small business users, shall not pay more than N1,870 per month for energy consumed. Single-phase small users are not to pay more than N200 per month till they are metered.
The enforcement of the order has been weak, a knowledgeable energy analyst said, raising concerns about the DisCos’ arbitrariliness in charging unmetered electricity consumers.
“The dilemma is that while the NERC acknowledges that there are issues with the implementation by the Meter Asset Providers (MAP), they still need to protect consumers,” said Dolapo Kukoyi, energy lawyer and partner at Lagos-based law firm, Detail Commercial Solicitors.
According to the NBS report, the 5.96 million figure represented 53 per cent of electricity consumers in the country.
The report showed that consumers were overcharged without proper regulation to ensure accurate billings, and that only 47 per cent of customers, or 5.31 million, were metered during the first quarter of 2023.
According to the report, Ikeja Electric led with 76 per cent of its customers having prepaid meters, followed by Port Harcourt DisCo with 63 per cent, and Eko DisCo with 61 per cent.
Abuja DisCo had 59 per cent, Benin DisCo 51 per cent, Enugu DisCo per cent, Ibadan DisCo 42 per cent, Jos DisCo 32 per cent, Kano DisCo 30 per cent, and Kaduna DisCo 24 per cent, with Yola DisCo the least performing with only 21 per cent of metered customers in the first quarters of 2023.
The report pointed out the need for President Bola Tinubu’s administration to ensure that all customers are accurately metered and billed for their electricity consumption.
It urged the regulatory authorities to compel the DisCos, urgently, to address the issue.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.