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Discos make N1tn amid grid crisis, unmetered customers hit 5.8m

Despite the persistent epileptic power supply nationwide, revenue generation by electricity distribution companies in Nigeria surged to N1.1trn within the 12 months of 2023, a new report has revealed.

The figure represents an increase of N234.4bn or 28.2 per cent from the N831bn generated by the power firms over a similar period in 2022.

This latest data was disclosed in the electricity report released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday.

The latest data came despite the sporadic power grid collapses recorded during the year.

Nigeria’s national power grid collapsed 46 times from 2017 to 2023, a report by the International Energy Agency said in a report.

According to the report, Nigerians endured more nationwide blackouts in 2023, especially on September 14 when the grid collapsed due to a fire on a major transmission line.

Despite the challenges, the distribution companies have continued to smile at the bank, allocating outrageous billing to customers.

An analysis of the revenue data showed that the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company got the highest revenue of N218.6bn, up by 31.7 per cent or N52.7bn from N165.9bn recorded in 2022. It was followed closely by the Eko Distribution Company which got a revenue increase of N52.8bn or 42.3 per cent from N124.8bn in 2022.

Third on the list is the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, with a revenue generation of N167.4bn from N125.7bn recorded in 2022.

Similarly, Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company got a revenue of N111.3bn, Enugu Electricity Distribution Company got a revenue of N82.5bn, Yola Electricity Distribution Company (N22.3bn), and Benin Electricity Distribution Company (N84.6bn), and Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company (N32.4bn).

Also, Jos Electricity Distribution Company increased its revenue to N38.9bn, Kano Electricity Distribution Company (N55.2bn) and Port-Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (N74.7bn).

Findings also showed that the increased efficiency in revenue collection might not be unconnected to rise in the overbilling of customers especially those on estimated billing system.

Also, it was observed that Discos were able to capture more customers under estimated billings system.

A further analysis stated that the number of metered numbers increased by 9.38 per cent or 480,833 while the number of customers under estimated billings reduced slightly by 1.73 per cent to 5.8m.

“Similarly, metered customers stood at 5.61 million in Q4 2023, indicating a decrease in the growth rate of 1.32 per cent from 5.68 million recorded in the preceding quarter. On a year-on-year basis, this grew by 9.38 per cent from the figure reported in Q4 2022 which was 5.13 million,” the report read.

Recently, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, declared that it would deduct N10,505,286,072 from the annual allowed revenues of the 11 power distribution companies during the next tariff review as part of sanctions over their non-compliance with the capping of estimated bills for unmetered customers.

It stressed that the billing of unmetered customers in their various franchise areas for 2023 revealed non-compliance with the monthly energy caps issued by the commission.

The commission explained that the Discos would pay about 10 per cent of the amount they over-billed their customers between January and September 2023.

The regulator also ordered the Discos to refund the cheated customers in full and to ensure compliance in the future, stressing that to deter future occurrence, a 10 per cent fine had been imposed on the utilities.

Since the start of this year, Nigerians have grappled with intermittent power supply, which has adversely impacted businesses and households, prompting numerous individuals and firms to seek alternative sources of energy.

The poor power supply situation was worsened by the fuel subsidy removal of June 2023, with the jump  of the average pump price of petrol from N238.11 per litre to over N600 per litre.

This demand for power has been exacerbated by a succession of heat waves, amplifying the environmental and health-related challenges.

Last week, authorities in public and private hospitals lamented the poor power supply situation amid the high cost of diesel in the country, noting that the poor power supply was affecting healthcare delivery.

On February 2, the Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu in a post on X formerly Twitter attributed the main cause of poor power supply in the country to the low supply of gas to generating companies.

He said the poor supply had impacted the quantum of bulk power available on the transmission grid for onward transmission to the distribution load centres nationwide.

“I had crucial discussions with power Generating companies and Distribution companies to address the ongoing issue of blackouts in parts of our country. After investigations, it’s clear that the main cause of poor power supply is the low supply of gas to GenCos,” Mr Adelabu said.

To stem the tide, the Federal Government had threatened to revoke the licences of power Distribution Companies over persistent poor power supply across the country, but the situation has not changed much.

The situation is partially attributed to the over $1bn indebtedness to gas producers who provide the gas required for running thermal gas-fired power plants amid the collapse of the national grid.

Consumers kick

Commenting on the report released by the NBS on Monday, the National Secretary, Nigeria Electricity Consumer Advocacy Network, Uket Obonga, said the Discos made money in 2023 as result of policies initiated by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission.

These policies, according to Obonga, benefitted the Discos more, but did not increase power supply to consumers, adding that the Discos also failed to improve their networks in order to serve their customers better.

“They are making money and smiling but they have not expanded their network to meet the demands of customers. What is giving them money is the Service Based Tariff that was initiated by NERC, which is questionable; another is the Performance Improvement Plan, which again is questionable.

“On SBT, you are aware that since this year, no consumer can comfortably say he or she has received up to eight hours of supply in a day. Many consumers suffered the same thing last year.’’

“Now, you have over 60 per cent of unmetered customers and the Discos will bring bills to these customers whether these Discos supplied power or not to the power users. And they will still harass customers with threats of disconnection if the customers fail to pay.

“And the regulator of the sector has not done anything concrete to address this. So tell me, why won’t the Discos make money? They are making money by distributing darkness,” the NECAN secretary stated.

Obonga called for sanctions against Discos that fail to meter their customers, stressing that had it been most consumers were metered, it would be difficult for the power distributors to defraud their customers with estimated bills.

Discos sanctioned

“The NERC recently revealed how the Discos overbilled their customers over a certain period of time and declared that the power firms would make refunds. That declaration should be enforced,” he stated.

In February, The PUNCH reported that Discos overbilled customers by N105bn, and were to face sanctions from NERC.

The commission had declared that it would deduct N10,505,286,072 from the annual allowed revenues of the 11 power distribution companies during the next tariff review as part of sanctions over their non-compliance with the capping of estimated bills for unmetered customers.

NERC had disclosed this in a notice obtained in Abuja, stressing that the billing of unmetered customers in their various franchise areas for 2023 revealed non-compliance with the monthly energy caps issued by the commission.

The commission explained that the Discos would pay about 10 per cent of the amount they over-billed their customers between January and September 2023.

In separate orders to the Discos, it was established that the power firms over-billed their customers to the tune of about N105bn in nine months.

Abuja Disco, for instance, overbilled its customers without meters to the tune of N17.874bn, while Eko Disco over-billed its unmetered customers by N13.137bn.

Port Harcourt Disco overbilled its customers without meters by N14.187bn, as Kaduna Disco overbilled its customers by N1.145bn.

The regulator ordered the Discos to refund the cheated customers in full and to ensure compliance in the future, stressing that to deter future occurrence, a 10 per cent fine had been imposed on the utilities.

NERC often issues orders stipulating the maximum amount that any unmetered customer is meant to pay to the distribution company that provides him or her electricity services.

The amount will continue until the customer is metered by the distribution company, according to NERC’s order to the power firms.

In the February notice, the regulator said, “The public may recall that in 2020, the commission issued the order on Capping of Estimated Bills (Order No: NERC/197/2020) and subsequently issued monthly energy caps which aimed to align the estimated bills for unmetered customers with the measured consumption of metered customers on the same supply feeder.

“A review of the electricity distribution companies’ billing of unmetered customers for 2023 has revealed non-compliance with the monthly energy caps issued by the commission.”

In response to this and in a bid to safeguard unmetered customers from arbitrary billing by Discos, the commission stated that pursuant to Section 34(1)(d) of the Electricity Act 2023, it had issued the order on Non-Compliance with Capping of Estimated Bills (Order No: NERC/2024/004-01 4).

Customers complain

 The President of the Nigerian Consumers Protection Network, Barrister Kunle Olubiyo, on Monday said the DisCos were making Nigerians pay for darkness, saying competition in the electricity market is the only way out.

According to him, the electricity market is not in favour of the end-user customers.

Olubiyo complained that the customers should not be the ones paying for meters.

Olubiyo maintained that DisCos were asking consumers to pay for services not provided.

“Go to different parts of the country, they are in darkness, but it is not going to translate into reduction in customers’ bills. Even during the COVID-19 when the economy was shut down, the bills of hotels and bulk users of electricity did not go down,” he said, saying power firm marketers were given mandate to generate huge revenue.

Olubiyo called for competition in the power sector to save the customers from being over-billed, especially with the new Electricity Act.

Dark Easter

Meanwhile, electricity customers have lamented how the various distribution companies have denied them power supply during the Easter break.

The consumers took to social media, complaining that they were celebrating Easter in darkness.

From Abuja to Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Enugu, Rivers, Benin, and others, our correspondents gathered that the power situation remained as it had been since the beginning of the year.

As the DisCos celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ on their social media handles, they were greeted with complaints from customers who said the Easter holiday was being celebrated in darkness.

Replying to the promise of stable power supply in Easter from the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company, an X user with the username, @toyinbalogun, said, “IBEDC should at least take advantage of today’s opportunity by seeking repentance and do the right thing by providing power supply. After all, most companies won’t resume until Tuesday.”

Temmy also said, “Dear IBEDC, thank you for treating us nicely for some weeks with electric supply at Ologuneru Oba-Ido. However, we’ve been in blackout for four days and we would appreciate if you show us mercy and be nice to us again. We paid our postpaid bill early for last month, be kind to us again in this season of Christ’s resurrection. Help us resurrect our electricity supply that has been dead for four days”.

Another IBEDC customer, @Hheywetade, called on the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission to revoke IBEDC licence, saying “in my side at Ijako’ Sango-Ota, Ogun State, we have not seen light for over two months. Please help us. “NERC, talk to IBEDC.”

Reacting to the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, @ookorodudu noted that for the past two weeks, those in Sokale Gardens in Abuja has not enjoyed power supply from the utility stating that it is either low voltage or two hours supply in a day.

@churlymanjoseph said, “@aedcelectricity, it’s not fair keeping people in the dark to celebrate Easter. I will implore you to please give us light in Lugbe Amac Area. We hardly have power supply”.

@simplyft stated, “It will make sense if you give us light in Kubwa Phase 3. The last time there was light was on Good Friday, now it’s the third day and you guys have refused to rise. AEDC, rise and give us light”.

Also, @melaninpatricia, a resident of Gbazango Kubwa, begged the Abuja Disco for electricity, saying “we can’t be celebrating the resurrection of our Lord with hot drinks and heat”.

Our correspondents report that customers of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company also complained of poor power supply when the BEDC said, “Happy Easter to you, our valued customer”!

@synergytrinity replied BEDC, “Know that for eight months plus, we don’t have light due to a faulty transformer. Ijeddo in Otokutu, PTI business unit, Delta State”.

@EjetavwoB said, “Wishing us a happy Easter celebration in darkness. How can you be that wicked?”

Similarly, customers of the Eko Electricity Distribution Company decried power outages in Easter.

A customer, @m4minx commented, “In Festac, there’s barely two hours of power during the day and nothing at all at night. Allowing people to sleep in these conditions, in this hot weather, is inhumane. In the name of the risen Lord, do better!”

Another X user, @kachimore complained that “for more than 96 hours, there’s no light in Chevron feeders all the area. It’s total blackout, why is your company treating people like this? There’s nothing like happy Easter for me.”

One Tunde Alatishe prayed that God resurrects “the dead-dying power sector of the nation” as @okoafor1 maintained that “The Easter celebration is incomplete without power supply”.

@Danielerondu asked, “How can we celebrate when you have put Ishaga network from Luth Idi-Araba station in darkness?”

Oreoluwa said, “Ishaga feeder, Surulere has not had light for days and you’re here saying happy Easter. What’s there to be happy about?”

Also, Hassan Adeleke wondered why the Eko DisCo was wishing people Happy Easter without power supply at Oribanwa, Ibeju Lekki over a month ago.

@Kapello03 said, “We are celebrating Easter in darkness, and you are still wishing us a happy Easter. Which kind thing be this? Una no get shame?”

In Enugu, @peterejue told the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company that for the past 21 days in Umunze, Line 11 have only had supplies for about six hours while Line 33 mostly do have light.

@stan_cedis noted: “Celebrating Easter and we’ve not seen light at Rehab Road, Emene. In fact, the whole of Enugu State suffers an epileptic electricity. You people should change your ways this Easter, it’s well with you”.

Heaven Ambassador commented, “You are a disgrace to Omagba Axis Onitsha”.

Evidence Kadi asked the Port Harcourt Electric, “As he has risen, why can’t you people bring light? You people also need to resurrect”.

Mr Levels stated, “We have not had light since Friday. No outage notification, just seize light and be posting Easter message like that is your primary mandate”.

@Adeadeg1 told the Ikeja Disco, “You have no reason to celebrate anything yet. Jesus was committed and steadfast and He achieved His objectives. IKEDC should give us light so that we can celebrate you. Keep quiet in shame for now”.

   Damilola complained, “There is citywide darkness. How do you want people to enjoy the Easter holidays?”

  @peoplespossibl reacted that, Ikeja Disco, we reject your Easter wishes. We the people of Ajibola Crescent, Alapere sleep and wake in darkness daily.

   Likewise, @oluraymon said, “We haven’t had light at Ikosi Ketu for the past four days now and you are wishing us a happy Easter. Oga be careful”.

The PUNCH reported that the Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, has promised Nigerians that the current power challenges occasioned by gas shortage and debts would be over in the next couple of months.


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