The Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, have said that more than 50% of electricity consumers in Nigeria, do not pay their bills.
Mr. Sunday Oduntan, the Executive Director of Association of Nigeria Electricity Distributors (ANED), and three of the eleven DISCOs’ MDs/CEOs, namely, Abuja, Neil Croucher, Ibadan, John Donnachie, and that of Ikeja DISCO, representing other eight told newsmen at a briefing in Lagos on Tuesday that they are operating in an unfriendly climate for business occasioned by energy theft and lack of access to foreign exchange.
They said most consumers did not see electricity as a commodity they must pay for, explaining that on that very day they got a report that in Gusau, Zamfara State capital, a DISCOs’ staff was seriously beaten by soldiers for disconnecting their light after failing to pay their bills for over two years.
They stated that the Zamfara attack was not an isolated incident but an everyday occurrence across the country, adding that the military were the most guilty of the attacks, and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call them to order.
“DISCOs collect for all stakeholders in the value chain, and as collection agent, only 25% of money collected belongs to DISCOs while 75% is for other stakeholders. And when customers don’t pay, the whole sector is affected.
“When customers don’t pay their electricity bills, they are denying the value chain made up of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) owned by the government, the generating companies (Gencos), Discos, and the gas suppliers of money to even defray operating expenses.
“Theft of electricity is still rampant; situations where customers bypass their metres, and connect themselves illegally. And with this level of energy theft in Nigeria, the sector will collapse if the public failed to report these crimes.
“The revenue shortfall adversely impact the ability of the Discos to make capital investments in metering, network expansion, equipment replacement, and rehabilitation that are critical for service delivery improvement.
“The industry shortfall is massive and growing, and now about N300b. This is a cash liquidity crisis that threatens to completely undermine the electricity value chain, and its ability to continue to serve its customers.
“Military and government’s ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are the biggest problem. MDAs’ debt is about N93b. At the moment there is a very significant losses, we buy energy and we are running at a loss,” they said.
Pleading for public supports in exposing energy theft, and staff not showing good customers relation, DISCOs disclosed that it has put in place a whistle-blower initiative with a confidential lines where customers can call all the electricity distribution companies to report.
It was explained that a little over six million customers are on their book, indicating that substantial number of electricity consumers do not pay for it. DISCOs said that between 40 and 70 percent of consumers in certain areas don’t pay their bills.
“Over the last three and a half years, we have spent lot of money running into billions. When
we came on board we met a metre gap of 5m but today we have reduced the metre gap to 2.8m as a total number of 3.2m customers are now metered,” recalling their accomplishments.
The companies absolved themselves of blame in poor power supply to customers. It said; “Gas pipeline vandalism leads to shortage of gas to power station; shortage of gas leads to low generation, and poor transmission facilities leads to low distribution.
“So disco cannot be blamed for low distribution because we cannot give what we don’t have.”
On the crazy bill, the MDs stated that as long as all the customers are not metered there will be some forms of estimated billings.
“We are trying to metre all people, and are sourcing for money to buy metres. People who are not metered are the one who most times get this estimated billings.
“There is customer enumeration exercise like a census going on, we are now identifying consumers who are not our customers, and they are very huge.
“These are consumers who are not paying their bills and bring them in into our database so that they can become our customers. Customers will soon see that their estimated billings is reduced,” they said.