By Nse Anthony-Uko
(Sundiata Post) – The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has said that out of 7, 476, 886 electricity customers in the country, only about 3.45 million have been reportedly metered while 4, 025. 611 are yet unmetered, proposing introduction of what it calls “Modified CAPMI”, saying it will fast track the exercise.
This was part of the presentation made by the regulator on Tuesday, the second and final day of the stakeholders consultation it held in Abuja for the Northcentral zone on MYTO methodology, Business Continuity, and Eligible Customer Declaration.
Credited Advance Payment for. metering Implementation (CAPMI) is a willing-customer financing scheme initiated by NERC in 2013 which allows electricity consumers who are yet to be metered by the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) to finance the procurement of of their meter and be repaid over time through deductions from their monthly bills as against the provision of the law which gave the monopoly of procuring, installing and managing meters to the DisCos.
However, some bottlenecks identified with the scheme forced the same NERC to abolish it when it issued a deadline of 1st November, 2016 for the 11DisCos to discontinue the practice.
Part of the proposal which generated a long heated debate on the floor was the recognition of middlemen to be known as Meter Service Providers (MSPs) who would provide and monitor the procurement, installation and management of meters, thus taking the responsibility off the shoulders of the DisCos.
Explaining the rationale behind the proposal, the spokesperson for NERC said it would quicken the metering step thus closing the existing gap in no time and eliminating meter bypassing as well as energy theft due to the enhanced vigilance and monitoring by the MSPs while guaranteeing revenue protection for the DisCos and repayment to customers.
Most of the stakeholders spoke in favour of the consumers paying with the guarantee of getting the meter immediately instead of what they claimed have been the practice where many Nigerians were made to pay, though against the rule, and cannot get meter for up to two, three years.
While urging that painstaking enumeration be conducted quickly to know the true number of customers as many believed that the figure given by NERC was too small looking at the size of Nigeria, some speakers argued that the liquidity challenges being faced in the industry is not as a result of low or non-cost reflective tariff but the inability of the revenue collector, the DisCos to collect at least a great percentage of the monies owed from customers.
They however urged that consideration be given to the so many members of the masses who are so poor and cannot afford to pay for meter, especially residents of low brow areas in the regulation.
Stakeholders agreed that NERC ensures that reliable and easy data collection mechanism that would give unambiguous information on how energy is consumed and calculated is embedded in the meter technology while concerted efforts are made to enlighten and educate electricity consumers on the usage.
Another aspect of the proposals was the idea of “Franchising (rural/urban)” under which DisCos will be allowed to transfer their franchise to agents who would retail electricity to communities or specific areas on their behalf at an agreed discount while the end-user tariff remains as approved by NERC in line with MYTO.
The two-day consultation closed with a vote of thanks from NERC who promised that all the suggestions and opinions harvested would be considered objectively in the release of the regulation, calling on individuals and groups who have one or more contributions to make to reach it through its website or call at its office.