Tackling Estimated Electricity Billing
Electricity is indispensable to life sustenance in the 21st century.
Its importance to industrial growth and contribution to residential comforts has made it a necessity whether in the remote village or in the urban centers.
It is therefore the responsibility of electricity consumers to accurately pay for the services they enjoy.
Aside from those using pre-paid meter, tax paid on electricity is based on estimation or estimated electricity billing system.
Rather than be allowed to enjoy what they are over-charged for as consumers, the opposite is the case whether electricity is supplied or not, the bill for a new month comes in sometimes even before the beginning of month, or latest by the second week of the month.
This is the major reason investors who were contemplating about setting up businesses in Nigeria left the country.
In a bid to lessen the sufferings of electricity consumers, the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 was introduced and seeks to prohibit and criminalize estimated billing by DISCOS and provide compulsory installation of prepaid meters to all power consumers.
Also, the recent move by the House of Representatives to sponsor a bill to prohibit the issuance of estimated electricity bill to consumers is a right step in the right direction.
The bill will ensure that the rights of every electricity consumer are protected and be metered within thirty days of applying for the device.
It also proposes different categories of penalties, ranging from five hundred thousand to one million naira fines and a jail term of six months, for failure to comply or for illegally disconnecting a consumer on the grounds of estimated billing.
In a renewed bid to ensure that electricity customers only pay for what they actually consume, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, also approved a regulation that provides for the supply, installation and maintenance of end-user meters by other parties.
The regulation is expected to fast-track a closure of the metering gap and encourages the development of independent and competitive meter services in the electricity industry.
Many deadlines for mass metering of customers have been set and disobeyed by the DISCOS, to which NERC has not had any effective response.
Thus, providing meters to customers has become a privilege instead of a matter of routine, this trend needs to be checked.
Customers should be provided with prepaid meters for efficiency and ease of revenue collection.
Most importantly, it is imperative that DISCOS live up to their responsibility by responding swiftly to reports of complaints by consumers.