Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Monday issued a stern warning to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) over electricity tariff.
The president of the Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba spoke during NERC’s meeting with DisCos, NLC and power consumers in Abuja to consider how to come up from the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) regulation of 2017, an estimated billing cap for unmetered customers.
He also called for the review of the power sector privatisation which he said was copied from India.
Wabba said if the Indians are lamenting, it means the concept is not going to address the power problem of the country.
He said: “If we are going to the wrong direction, we should not continue to go the wrong direction because it will not take us to the ultimate destination. Recently, I was in India. The lamentation we are doing here is what they are doing in India. We borrowed this whole process from India.
“I saw that the same issues we are passing through is what they are passing through. So, if we borrowed this power concept from India and India is even having the same problems we are having, it means we are going the wrong direction. Then we must revisit it so that we get to the point that will take us to the right destination.”
Speaking at the Public Consultation on Capping of Estimated Billing, Wabba said: “On our part, anything that will add cost to the consumers at this point in time, certainly, as a consumer and somebody that represents a large constituency, we will not be able to bear the cost.”
He implored the commission and stakeholders in the power sector to think of other options instead of profit that is not commensurate with power supply to the customer.
He said: “Where we are, the poverty level in Nigeria, I am telling you that many of us cannot afford to pay this exploitative billing.
“I had a retired DIG calling me that I used to pay such amount and now this is what I am paying. I cannot pay. Those are the people at the higher level. What of those at a lower level: small and medium scale enterprises like the barbers?
“Can the cooks pay? What is the per capital income in Nigeria? Let us be realistic, if not we put laws in place that are violated and nothing will happen.”
Describing the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) as exploitative, he urged NERC to exercise the full wrath of the law on the firm that is making life hellish for Nigerians.
According to him, the NERC has been treating the DisCos with kid gloves while it has on the other hand, been hard on the customers.
Insisting that estimated billing is exploitative, the labour leader recalled the ordeal of the Cuban consulate to Nigeria, whose meter was removed while he was on leave.
Within a month, said Wabba, the consulate got an exploitative billing he had never paid for the past 20 years.
Wabba added that at the NLC, the AEDC was billing it N630,000 monthly even as the office was only working between 8:00am and 5:00pm without electricity supply.
He said the company was fond of supplying power to the Power House only five days prior to billing day, which compelled the congress to apply for meters to no avail and went to court.
“In the court, even the DisCo was in two categories. While the legal department said it is our right to have meters. The commercial department said the revenue will go down if customers get meters,” said Wabba.
The company, said the labour leader, opted for out of court settlement yet refused to meter the labour house until the union resorted to scheduling a protest to close down all DisCos offices for estimated billing.
The commissioner on Consumer Affairs, Dr. Moses Arigu had earlier said that even with the implementation of the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) regulation, not all the consumers can be metered at the same time.
NERC has resolved to deliberate with consumers and other stakeholders what unmetered customers should pay in the meantime.
Arigu said that “the proposing order is expected to be a ‘catalyst’ for the DisCos to accelerate or fast-track deployment of meters to unmetered customers.”
The commission, he said, will closely monitor the accelerated deployment of meters through MAP initiative.
He added that the MAP scheme is designed to tackle issues relating, but not limited to adherence to timeline for replacement of faulty meters, timely metering of new connections and elimination of bulk billing /arbitrary billing.
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