Abakaliki Residents Demand Improved Electricity

https://www.nigeriandailies.com.ngectricity users in Abakaliki, the capital of Ebonyi State now
have the unique customers’ clout with which they demand for improved
electricity services from their vendor – Enugu Disco.
Anecdotal studies have shown
that a good
number of Nigeria’s vast electricity consumers captured in the 11
electricity distribution zones which are serviced by 11 distribution
companies (Discos) are absolutely unacquainted with the service
privileges owed them by their respective vendor Discos.

Also, for those that may be aware and
would want to fairly push through these rights, their abilities have
overtime been restricted by the deficiency of an impartial conciliatory
platform which could interfere and bring sanity to the service
relationships between consumers and Discos.Until recently when the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission
(NERC) opened a consumers’ complaint forum office in Abakaliki, the
capital city of Ebonyi State, Mr. Wilson Enwerejiaku has had to live
with the difficulties of putting up with the unfair service contract he
has with the Enugu Disco which supplies power to his home.Situated on a building which is on Ezekuna Crescent along the busy Nsugbe Street in the heart of Abakaliki, the multifaceted forum office was set up by NERC to
enhance the confidence of electricity consumers like Enwerejiaku in
demanding for fair handling of their service complaints by Enugu Disco.
Similar platforms, THISDAY understands have been set up in other parts
of the country.

Nevertheless, Enwerejiaku, a resident of
Abakaliki turned up at the inauguration of that of the city, furnished
with a folder which contained all acknowledged copies of the electricity
bills he had paid to Enugu Disco over the years, as well as other
related documents. His intention, he stated was to demand for integrity
of service delivery.
He also told THISDAY that he came to put
an end to the unfair treatment he was getting from Enugu Disco which he
accused of being unfair to him and failing to uphold its own end of the
service contract he entered with it.
“The issue is that for a very long time
especially in this part of Abakaliki, we discovered that every end of
the month, the NEPA staff or EEDC bring electricity bills where they
didn’t supply electricity,” said Enwerejiaku.
He added that the electricity vendor had some times in the past
calculated his monthly electricity consumption such that it was above
his monthly house rent of N9000, saying that such anomaly had persisted
with perpetual rebuff of consumers’ complaints by officials of Enugu
Disco.
According to him, “In so many occasions,
they billed me so high and at a point, it was above my monthly house
rent. When I was living at Afikpo Road, I paid above my house rent in a
month and when I complained they said it was what I consumed.
“They know the way they do their
mathematics but then I arrived at nothing when I complained. I had to
pay because I needed the light. I paid over N9000 and my house rent was
N9000 as well as.”
Just like other consumers who were at
the inauguration with various shades of complaints against the Disco’s
poor consumer service delivery, Enwerejiaku said the practice had
continued even though he has changed apartments.
“Currently where I live now, I didn’t see a glimpse of light in February
but they still gave me a bill of N3500. But I refused to pay because I
can’t pay for what I did not consume,” he added.
He relayed the uncanny experience he
often encountered in the hands of the Disco officials, one that is quite
relative across electricity consumers in Nigeria, saying: “Initially,
when we get to the EEDC office to complain, the staff will snub you and
will not even look at your face.”
He added: “We get frustrated with this
and when they come to disconnect your supplies, you still go back to beg
them to reconnect you.”
To him, the setting up a consumers’ forum office in Abakaliki could be a huge reprieve from the Disco’s alleged unhealthy acts.
“With the presence of this NERC forum, I
have read through the guidelines and discovered that we have a better
mechanism to lay our complaints now. We have a place to run to now when
we have these kinds of experience.
“But above all, I want them to push the
EEDC to bring the prepaid meter so that I can pay for whatever I consume
and not the other way. I want to be responsible for my consumption, I
want to know that if I don’t have light, it is because I have no units
in my meter,” he said.
The acting head of NERC, Dr Anthony Akah
however said when he opened the forum office, that it will handle all
appeals on complaints lodged by customer like Enwerejiaku at the various
customer care units of the Enugu Disco but which have received
unacceptable treatments.
Akah explained that instances of untidy
handling of service complaints lodged by electricity consumers by Enugu
Disco would now be checked by the forum office which has its members
from representatives of all the customer classes, industrial, commercial
and residential, as well as professional bodies such as the Nigerian
Society of Engineers (NSE); Consumer Protection Council (CPC);
Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and indeed the Enugu Disco.
Fortunately, he added, the forum offices
are localised across the 11 distribution networks in the country both
in terms of constituent members and location.
Akah said it was the job of Enugu Disco
to serve its customers satisfactorily and that occasions of poor service
delivery with no reasonable explanations would be taken up by the
commission through the forum office.
He added that the Disco also stands the
risk of having its service profile downgraded based on the frequency of
complaints against its service deliveries by its customers. According to
him, the more frequent customers complain against a Disco, the more
profound the Disco’s operational inadequacies are made, hence the tag of
inefficiency on the Disco.
Akah also took the Enugu Electricity
Distribution Company (EEDC) to task over rising complaints of estimated
billing by it. He noted that the Disco’s metering gap was huge and
unacceptable.
NERC, Akah said was closely monitoring
EEDC to ensure that they cut down their metering gap and estimated bills
to its consumers. He said about 50 per cent of that gap should be cut
down within the shortest possible time.
Akah also said that available statistics
with the NERC indicate that EEDC which has a customer base of 732,423,
still has up to 70 per cent or 512 335 of them unmetered. He said the
development was unacceptable for quality service delivery.
Similarly, he decried the fact that EEDC
has not commenced its meter roll out plan as contained in the
performance agreement it signed with the federal government when they
took over the electricity distribution company in 2013.
According to him, the EEDC which signed in its performance agreement
with the government to install an average of 100,000 meters within its
network on an annual basis over the next five years, has failed to live
up to this.
That agreement, Akah noted has since been reviewed to ensure that the
present metering gap of 512,335 would be closed within the next three
years.
“It is sad that Enugu Disco has not
commenced the implementation of its meter roll-out in accordance with
the performance agreement signed with the government under the
privatisation programme.
“The Commission has instituted measures
to accelerate metering through very close monitoring of distribution
companies meter roll-out plan. The present metering gap in Enugu Disco
alone is about 512,335 when compared to its total customer size of
732,423. It is expected that the present metering gap would be closed
within the next three years,” said Akah who also called on Abakaliki
consumers to help the Disco protect its distribution infrastructure.
“In as much as we want consumers to take up their rights with Enugu
Disco, we also urge you to live out your obligations to this Disco.
“You can do this by shunning acts of
violence, vandalism of electrical infrastructure and stealing of
electricity. I will also advise you to pay your appropriate bills and
channel all such electricity complaints that were not satisfactorily
treated at the Disco level to this forum office for resolution.

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