THE Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has affirmed that it is not the responsibility of electricity consumers to buy or repair transformers, pole or any other assets, but that of the service providers, which are the electricity distribution companies (DisCos).
The NERC Commissioner for Consumers Affairs, Aisha Mahmud, stated this in Abuja at the ongoing three-day NERC/Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) Customer Complaint Resolution Meeting.
The meeting commenced on Thursday December 8.
The trend of customers acquiring or repairing some vital electricity components on their own has been a recurring concern, leading to blame game between the DisCos and their concerned customers.
Consumers often have to resort to self-help in sorting out issues of electricity assets when distribution companies are not forthcoming with solutions.
However, Mahmud, in a clarification, said, “It is not the responsibility of the consumers to buy meters, poles or any assets for the DisCos because we have already provided for that in the tariff of the utilities.
“But under any circumstances that you have to purchase these items and you cannot wait for the DisCos to make that investment, we have made provision for that under our ‘Investment Regulation.’ ”
She said the commission came up with a regulation called ‘investment in the network’ and based on that, if a customer has to purchase a transformer, it has to be done through an agreement.
According to her, the consumer has to sign an agreement with the DisCos stating when and how the consumer would be refunded the cost of that transformer.
“The agreement should contain dispute resolution clause and any other items that are expected of a standard agreement.
“What we expect from the DisCo is to use their internally generated revenue (IGR) to buy those assets, or rather use shareholders’ investment or borrow from the banks to purchase those assets,” she said.
She noted that in the event that the Discos were not able to buy those assets, customers can make a case and be refunded.
“What the consumers don’t know is that the regulation exists and they go about making all sorts of investment, which DisCos say is a donation to them because there is no agreement,‘’ she said.
The commissioner said it was part of NERC’s responsibility to also educate customers on their rights and obligations and all they are supposed to know about the electricity market.
Mahmud, saying the commission realised that most consumers in Nigeria did not know about the existence of the regulator and did not know their rights, added, “But it is our duty to tell them that it is their right to get a meter as Discos are not doing you any favour to issue you a meter.”
She said that NERC’s mandate was also to educate the consumers on their responsibilities such as the issue of meters, bypass or tampering with meters.
“They should know that the Discos are just merely collection agents and the revenue they collect is not entirely their own as they have to pay gas suppliers, pay the Transmission Company (TCN) and the generation companies, so customers should know that once they touch the utilities they are also shortchanging themselves, ‘’she said.
The Commissioner for Planning Research and Strategy at NERC, Yusuf Ali, said that the forum was an opportunity for customers’ voice to be heard and their rights upheld.
Alli said that customers always complained to NERC that whenever they complained to the DisCos, the resolution took too long.
“But with this forum, the expectation is that complaints will be resolved quickly,‘’ he said.
The Managing Director of Abuja Electricity DistributionCompany (AEDC), Adeoye Fadeyibi, said that the company was committed to meeting its customers’ demand.
Represented by Olajumoke Delonia, the Head, Regulatory and Government Relation at AEDC, Fadeyibi said the idea of the forum was to address customers’ complaints, as he commended NERC for the initiative.
“AEDC is prepared to look into the complaints of its customers quickly, ’ he assured.
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.