The Minister of Power, Works and Housing in Nigeria, Mr Babatunde Fashola, on Tuesday explained the process that had caused delay in the installation of meter in different homes.
Addressing a forum on Electricity Metering that had heads of distribution companies and meter producing companies in attendance, the Minister said that the ‘installation of meter is a processes that takes times to complete’.
A large number of Nigeria’s electricity users are on estimated billing system that leaves most of them paying higher than what they consume per month.
To end the crazy estimated bills that they receive, the government had established the credit apply initiative – CAPMI – to enable consumers make payment for meters that should, by law, be delivered within 45 days of payment.
Most consumers made payments but meter delivery in most cases exceed 45 days.
Complaints over non-receipt of meters mounted and the government suspended the scheme.
Linking the delay to the process that the installation of meters must go through, Mr Fashola said: “The ideal situation will be to meter everybody, but if we had the metering gap that we have today, if we have the three million estimated meters that we need today to meet the date, it will need man-hours, one after the other, hours upon hours, to actually install all of them.
“We should also understand that metering is also a process.
“Meters are first produced and then they are calibrated for each DISCO (Distribution Company).
“So, the fact that you make a meter does not mean you will go and install it in a DISCO. It is a process and each home will have to be addressed on the basis of its survey, what its needs are and other things”.
He Pointed out that the entire nation could not be metered within few years considering the population and needed manpower.
“We did not meter the whole of Nigeria in 63 years. The transition process is just three years,” he said, insisting, however, that the burden of metering a consumer was that of the DISCOS.
“He must measure so that he can bill and connect.”
The Minister also identified lack of trust in the DISCOS by the consumers, as a major issue that had hampered the distribution of the meters.
On the current efforts that the government is making to improve power in the nation, the Minister told the gathering that efforts were being focused on the regulation of the power industry.
“Our power journey is in transition. Public power started in Nigeria in 1960.
“Every day it becomes clearer that the problems in the power sector are not as technical as they are man- made,” he stressed.
Mr Fashola pointed out that his Ministry had designed an easy journey to increase power supply, with the first phase focusing on incremental power, which would enable it get existing projects to run.
“The transmission system is dynamic. There are projects for transmission that are ongoing.
“We are not at 5,000 megawatts, the capacity is increasing every day,” he said.
The head of MOMAS Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company Ltd, Kola Balogun, told the forum that there were about 3.3 million meters installed in Nigeria.
He said that the issue of financing and foreign exchange had affected the production of meter in Nigeria.
Identifying standardisation as a challenge, He said the sector needed to come out with a clear framework that would ensure that houses were meterable,
Questions have been raised on why consumers cannot buy their meters themselves.
The MD of the Enugu DISCO, Robert Dickerman, told the forum: “If you let customers buy their own metre they will buy the wrong one. Smart meter is better for us but no customer will buy a smart meter.”
On the estimated billing system, he said that his company had followed a methodology that would ensure that customers do not get crazy bills.
“For customers who do not have a meter and are on interim period until we can meter every one, there is an estimated billing and this is quite controversial for some people.
“No one should be getting something called crazy bills because the estimated methodology is based upon the availability of the supply line which is called the feeder to that area.
“They are not allowed to pay any more than the average that the metered customers pay every month.
“Estimated customers are not supposed to be given above average of what the feeder reads.
“Customer tariffs are defined by their usage and by their maximum demand,” he explained.
Made In Nigeria Meters
Despite the population of Nigeria that is seen as huge opportunity for companies that produce meter to tap, there is still no company that produces electronic components in a meter.
Giving reasons for this situation, the Managing Director of Kano DISCO, Jamil Gwamna, said: “Lack of uniformity in demand discourages production of electronic components in a meter in Nigeria.
“There are so many customers in our network that we have not been able to capture.”
For the Managing Director of MOJEK International Limited, Chantel Oluwabunmi Abdul, the production of the components outside Nigeria and the volatile nature of foreign exchange affect the pricing of meters, making it a bit expensive for consumers to buy them.
She said: “Meter is about 42,000 Naira for a single face while a two-face meter goes for over 60,000 Naira”.
She further said that her company was doing its best to compete effectively with international companies that are coming into Nigeria.
On funding, which most of the companies’ heads identified as a huge impediment on the distribution of meters across Nigeria, she said her organisation had approached the likes of BOI.
She asked the government to provide a special funding for the companies. She says her fear is that the government is broke.
Responding to her demand for funds, Mr Fashola said that $115 million had been set aside for the DISCOS in form of loan to boost their capacity of metering homes.