The House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the excessive electricity billings on Wednesday blasted the electricity Distribution Companies, DisCos, and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, over their unlawful practices in billing customers excessively even without power supply, dismissing them as failures and fraudsters.
This is just as the apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, revealed during the investigative hearing chaired by Honourable Ajibola Israel Famurewa that there was no record of metered customers and even the estimated bill customers.
According to the apex bank, this was in spite of the disbursement of over N488billion with an interest rate of 10 percent as against the market rate of 23 percent to the DisCos.
Speaking at the hearing, Hon. Tope Olayonu (APC, Kwara) alongside his colleagues, asked the NERC Boss, Professor James Momoh, to inform the Federal Government of his ability or resign, if he was not ready for the Job.
“If you are not ready for the job, tell the Federal Government or resigns, you are and DisCos are failures. You don’t have what it take to manage the situation Nigerians are face with,” the lawmaker said.
Also, Hon. Muazu Lawal (APC, Zamfara), while taking on the representatives of the DisCos said: “I think DisCos and others are not ready for the job before them. How can you be operating like that? You just go about billing people the way you like without considering the actual power they consume. This happens everywhere in the country, including here in Abuja. This is unacceptable.
“DisCos are either operated by fraudsters or they’re just extorting money from Nigerians. If you’re not ready for the job, tell us you’re not ready.”
CBN Governor Godwin Emiefele, who was represented by the Head of Infrastructure Financing, Elder Boma Binima, said two tranches of intervention totaling N488 billion had been given to the sector since privatisation to erase legacy debts.
“The CBN-Nigerian Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility (CBN-NEMFS) was aimed at settling deposit money banks that finance the outstanding payment obligations by market participants, service providers and gas suppliers that accrued during the Interim Rules Period (IRP Debts).
“Factored in were also the legacy has debts of the PHCN generation companies owed to gas suppliers and the Nigerian Gas Company Limited,” he revealed.
“A total of N158.74 billion has been distributed under the facility as Discos meet contract terms under the Transition Electricity Market.
“To make electricity sure electricity become sufficient, we also intervened by providing a payment assurance facility. And to date, we have disbursed N330 billion out of a projected N701 billion,” he said.
The CBN further stressed that distribution companies bought 704,928 meters from the facility. 511 transformers were purchased and installed, 2206 kilometers of 11Kv lines and 130 kilometers of 0.45Kv lines were rehabilitated.
“The Generation Companies, GenCos, were monitored and we discovered that 1,012 megawatts of generation capacity was recalled and 56 substations were constructed and rehabilitated,” he said.
Binima, however, said the CBN has no record of metered customers and estimated bill customers and that N20 billion has been repaid from the CBN-NEMFS facility.
Also, the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, in his remarks, informed them that the House will soon pass a bill criminalising estimated billing by electricity distribution companies.
Dogara, who was represented by Hon. Shehu Aliu Musa (Bauchi) said that soon, estimated billing would be criminalized in the country.
“As most of the stakeholders present here may be aware, the House of Representatives is currently working in a bill for an Act to amend the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act, 2004, to prohibit and criminalize estimated billing by Electricity Distribution Companies and provide for compulsory installation of prepaid meters to all power consumers in Nigeria,” he said.
Dogara, further stressed that the Bill was already at the Committee Stage and it is meant to block another loophole by which the DisCos were allegedly cheating consumers.”