Labour & Gov’t have adopted these Resolutions of the Adhoc Technical Committee chaired by the Honorable Minister of State, Labour
One of the key germane issues that affect Electric Power Consumers directly has to do with the resolution to deploy a batch of 1million Meters of the 6millino Meters President Buhari announced on the eve of the implementation of the contentious Service Reflective Tariff by the Electricity Distribution Companies in September 2020.
Quoting the Adhoc Committee report, “Acceleration of the National Mass Metering Program(NMMP): For the Distribution of the first one million meters, the Ministry of Power is to liaise with CBN, NERC and NEMSA to start work by 12th October, 2020 to accelerate the rollout of Meters with a target of December 2020. The Meeting agreed that it will work towards bridging the Metering Gap. The Federal Government committed to provide 6million meters; NERC is expected to compel the Discos to metering needs of the Customers”
Next point is: “Local Procurement for Meters for NMMP: Organized Labour to work with Government to improve and ramp up local production capacity”
As noble as these intentions might appear, it clearly also spells doom for close observers and analysts of the power sector.
For one, this is not the first time the Federal Government would promise heaven and earth to ensure Meters are deployed for Electricity Consumers.
Prof. Chinedu Nebo, a former minister of power, at a town hall meeting in January 2015 announced an approved funding for one million prepaid meters to be distributed to consumers through the 11 Distribution companies (Discos) to curtail the ravaging effects of estimated billing.
“The president (Goodluck Jonathan) is going to launch it very shortly and has provided the funding to give over one million meters to Nigerians to reduce the gap and then allow the Discos to face a time when they will make sure that all Nigerians are eventually metered,” Nebo had said.( https://dailytrust.com/wither-fgs-1m-electricity-meters-project)
Apart from that pronouncement, nothing was ever heard of this initiative again, which also incidentally coincided with a time when increase in tariff was also on the front burner.
We have once again come full cycle to the point where the Federal Government, in trying to placate Nigerians and encourage Consumers that they meant well, has chosen the pain point-Metering, to promise Nigerians of another one million meters.
The Adhoc Committee, while at best is advisory, has also set an open ended December 2020 as target date, whether December 1st,, or December 31st 2020, it is not stated.
Taking December 31st 2020 as target has only given the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry exactly 10weeks for ONE MILLION Meters to be deployed.
Other questions that has been left open ended includes the source of these Meters, names of Companies, whether local or foreign, that will be engaged, IF these Meters are readily available in Nigeria or will be imported, the source of finance for the acquisition (the VAT or World Bank Loan) and installation of the Meters, or even the Framework for which this NMMP would be deployed to Nigerian homes.
It is interesting that since President Buhari made the announcement in late August 2020, nothing concrete has been set up until the October 11th Recommendation by the adhoc committee on tariff review.
Far and beyond the issue of tariff, it has been stated severally that there are more important issues to be tackled before tariff can make any meaning to the power sector.
For Nigeria, and the Power Sector, to make progress,
i. Every Nigerians MUST HAVE equal access to quality electricity
ii. Every Nigerian must have means of measuring their consumption
iii. Every Consumer would then prove responsible to pay for what they consume. With Meters, Nigerians would be able to determine how much electricity they want to consume, especially when they do not have an option of utility service providers
iv. It is when the above issues is tackled that Consumer apathy can be resolved.
To reiterate, all private investors will continue to take advantage of all possible loopholes in the regulation and administration. This is where the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission has failed in stamping their authority, and their power.
With the Regulators having several opportunities to address the agitation of Consumers, and failing at this, the intervention of the Federal Government should be highly appreciated, but it should be done in such a way not to totally emasculate the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission.
Adetayo Adegbemle is a public opinion commentator/analyst, researcher, and the convener of PowerUpNigeria, an Electric Power Consumer Right Advocacy Group (Twitter:@PowerUpNg, Email: email@example.com)