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Prepaid meters or estimated billing: Which do Nigerians prefer?

Thursday, 11 October 2018

The prepaid meter is a new development which is supposed to take care of the anomalies in the analogue system. It is digital and really, if it is well implemented, consumers will be better off, because what you consume is what you pay for. But in the estimated billing system, it’s just a matter of the rule of the thumb. The electricity workers just do anything they like and allocate any figure or amount to the consumer. Some use the estimated billing to punish some electricity consumers. I know somebody that said he was consistently billed excessively, even after complaints, the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) officials handling the area didn’t do anything about the matter. But then that shouldn’t be the situation. So, in the face of such a situation, the prepaid meter is better. If you don’t have money, you don’t consume energy, if you have money and pay for energy, then you consume. It’s as simple as that. The prepaid is better for Nigerians.

Mr. Maurice Okafor, Journalist, Enugu

The prepaid meter is preferable for every family in Nigeria, so consumers know the amount consumed per month. Amidst hard times, you curtail excessive energy and avoid using appliances that are unnecessary. It helps most average families adapt to the present economic reality. Unfortunately, the issue of obtaining a prepaid metre from EEDC, which is in charge of south-east zone, has remained a mirage, a dream that will never come true. This is based on the fact that most families, including mine, who applied for prepaid metres, have not received any even when EEDC claims that it has many in stock. The non-release of the item to consumers goes to show EEDC has skeletons in its cupboard. In other words, they want most people to continue to suffer the pains of estimated billing system. So, no matter how you economise usage energy, you must be issued with the same bill based on estimation. Most families are unhappy about this.

Mrs. Patience Ike, 32, Banker, Enugu

There is no way I would prefer the estimated billing system to the prepaid. The prepaid is programmed to enable the consumer pay for only the energy he/she consumed. That means, even when you put off your lights and go on vacation, the meter will stop at the last unit of energy you left until you return, and it doesn’t matter how long you stay. But the estimated billing is full of problems and stress, in the sense that the EEDC officials would come and allocate to the consumer any amount they like. And they do this even when the consumer puts off his or her lights before travelling.

Ibrahim Ahmed Lame, 37, Journalist, Bauchi 

I prefer the prepaid meter. I was sceptical about it, but when I got it I became more disciplined in my energy usage. It is just like one’s phone, you recharge and make calls. If you have exhausted your credit, you cannot make calls. So, if you don’t recharge, you won’t have light. But the problem now is the supply. 

In Bauchi, it is not everywhere that those meters are installed. I realised that even the electricity workers are keener on estimated billing than the prepaid meter, because it allows them to commit atrocities. One other thing is that, when your meter develops a fault, you spend days without light because you will be shuttling for days between your house and the electricity company’s office. 

Houses with estimated bills are being short-changed, because you are not sure that you are paying what you consume. You wonder how the company came about having a bill for somebody who didn’t have light for weeks.

Another thing is that, employees from the companies connive with some consumers using the estimated bill to cheat their employers, because not all the monies being collected are remitted to the electricity companies. So, for the company and most of the customers, the prepaid meter is better than estimated billing which gives room for fraud.

Habib Mohammed Shehu, 40, Photographer, Bauchi

The prepaid meter gives you more freedom and protects you from undue harassment by electricity company workers, while giving the company more security to their investment. Also, our recklessness in energy usage was curtailed by the prepaid meter. In the past, people buy or use electric gadgets that they don’t even need, because they knew they were paying far less than they consumed. Now, people don’t leave their gadgets or lights on, because they know the implication.

People rejected the idea of having the new prepaid meters in their homes, because the old one was not as sophisticated as the new. They have been by-passing the old one and knew that the new meter cannot be tampered with.

Mr. Onebuchi Onwe, 25, Graphic Artist, Enugu

I prefer the prepaid meter because I have used both the estimated billing and the prepaid. The problem with estimated billing is that most times, there will be power failure for as long as a week or more, and yet EEDC will issue huge bills to the consumers at the end of the month, despite the period of power outage. That is pure and outright cheating on the energy users. When there is a fault that could be rectified within a month, the EEDC bring their estimated high bills to the consumers.

The advantage is that you don’t get disturbed by EEDC officials once you exhaust your energy. Whenever you have the money, you can recharge and begin to enjoy electricity supply. But the disadvantage of prepaid metres, especially the newly installed ones, is that it discharges energy faster than the old prepaid metres. I don’t know if it is a fault or that is how it was manufactured. All the same, I still prefer the prepaid metres.

I will suggest that EEDC should correct whate

About IWIN

The Independent Energy Watch Initiative (I-WIN), an enterprise of Energy ConServ and the Roundtable for the Growth and Development of Power (RODEP), is an online/web based power sector portal that strives to engage stakeholders and the Nigerian public on topical issues in the power sector.

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