Power Sector News
WHY GETTING PREPAID METERS IS DIFFICULT
The euphoria, which greeted the introduction and implementation of Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) scheme, by the Federal Government, may have waned, five months after the firms, which applied to serve as MAPs, began operation.
Prior to this period, Nigerians were glad with the decision of the Federal Government to introduce a new metering plan, which culminated in the application and approval of some meter asset providers by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) early this year.
Many had thought that their worries over the non-availability of meters would end, while others believed that they had won the battle against estimated billings. Such was the expectation of consumers, as they hailed the administration of President Muhammad Buhari for helping to solve metering problems.
Operators were not left out. The Chairman, Meter Electricity Manufacturing Company Limited,(MEMCOL), Mr. Kola Balogun, said the introduction of new metering arrangement and the subsequent approval of some firms as meter asset providers was good, as it could end the nightmares experienced by electricity consumers.
He said meters would be supplied in large quantities as soon as the new meter plans take root. But they were dead as meter asset providers have failed to deploy meters to consumers in required numbers due to certain underlying problems.
The Executive Secretary, Electricity Meters Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (EMMAN), Mr. Muhideen Ibrahim, decried at the development, saying that the problem might be due to scarcity of meters. He said customers leveraged the wide coverage by the media to lodge complaints on the issue.
The customers, Ibrahim said, might have paid to their meter asset providers, with the hope of getting meters, regretting that they were unable to get the product.
In a related development, the Managing Director, Mojec Asset Management Company (MAMC), Mrs. Mojisola Abdul, blamed the problems on logistics. The firm, a subsidiary of Mojec International Limited, is a meter asset provider. The company, alongside others, like Turbo Engineering and Mever Consulting, were believed to have been appointed by Abuja Electricity Distribution Company(AEDC) to provide meters to customers under its jurisdiction.
Mrs. Abdul told news men that the firm would have deployed more meters to customers but for logistics. She said logistics and funding were some of the problems facing the metering sub-sector, adding that the problems have hindered the distribution of meters to consumers.
She said: “Two major problems that hinder supply of meters to customers are logistics and funding. Moving meters from one place to another, in the course of metering consumers, has been pretty difficult. Providing enough logistics for moving meters across the country is a big challenge, adding that changes in the prices of pre-paid meters were inevitable, if the meter asset providers were going to record any growth.’’
On meter supply, she said the firm had provided 25,000 meters to customers in Abuja, saying this was in addition to the 40,000 meters, which the firm had provided customers across the country. She added that Mojec would provide 100,000 meters to customers by the end of the year.
Also, the Managing Director, New Hampshire Capital, Mr. Odion Wesley Omohfoman, said meter asset providers were experiencing difficulties in bringing customers into the metering net. New Hampshire Capital holds the franchise to provide meters to customers under Ikeja Electric.
Speaking to the media during the meter sensitisation forum in Ikorodu, Lagos, he said the firm, in conjunction with Ikeja Electric, decided to hold the forum in Ikorodu due to its size.
Many customers did not know what it entailed to get meters, stressing that they needed to be educated on modalities for getting pre-paid meters, he said.
On payment, he said the government had introduced measures to ease payment for meters. The flexiblity of payment and the ability to spread it over time are measures introduced by the government to ensure the success of the metering scheme.
Also, Balogun said the need to patronise indigenous meter manufacturers was key to the growth of the sector, saying Nigerians should patronise local manufacturers since they have the capacity to produce metres that could be compared with imported ones.
He urged the government to consider a downward review of the prices of meters, arguing that N38,000 and N67,000 for a single-phase meter and three-phase ones were high, when one considered the economic situation in the country.
He advised the government to reduce the prices to ensure that the scheme worked, as well as achieved the goals of metering the country.
In his reaction, the Coordinator of Electricity Consumer Advocacy Network, Akeem Balogun, expressed doubts that MAP could provide meters to customers across the country, saying resolving the issue of estimated billing and closing the metering gap, in view of the number of people in need of the service, were doubtful.
He said NERC, in line with its regulation, allows customers to procure meters from a third party at their own expense, adding that it is not certain that everybody who applied for meters would get them.
On his own part, the Chairman, Joint Action Congress of Electricity Distribution Company, Customers Right (JACEDCR), Amos Olawoye, said MAP was a good move by the government, but noted that the cost of meter, which has been embedded in the tariff, was a way to undermine.
He added that since customers were procuring for themselves, at the point of installation, an undertaking should be signed by the customers, discos and the meter access provider, to clarify things for future purposes.
Industry observer said scarcity of meters is taking its toll on the operation of MAPs, adding that it is not likely that the meter asset providers would close the metering gap of 4,6 million customers in the country.
The observer, who does not want his name mentioned, advised the government, against playing politics with the issue.
He said the inability by the government to address the problems of funding and infrastructure in the metering sub-sector would defeat the purpose for which the new metering plan was conceived.