From Ibadan Monday came a report that should comfort long-suffering energy consumers in Nigeria. While addressing the 12th edition of the monthly meeting of stakeholders in the power sector, 3-in-1 minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, spoke to the heart of the big moral question DISCOs (distribution companies) have been unable to answer.
Just how fair is it for consumers to pay for services not rendered?
The extortionate strategy is simple: estimated billing system. In order word, whether electricity is supplied or not, you are made to pay a fixed rate, failing which you are summarily disconnected.
Speaking that day, the former Lagos governor rose in defense of helpless consumers by saying they have a right to resist paying for services not enjoyed. To be sure, each time the minister explains that power generation is hampered by lack of gas to power the plant, people can understand. (Of course, people can also see that BRF has grown more grey hair over sleepless nights trying to make the power plants deliver more megawatts.)
But what does not make sense to the people is when the DISCOs seek to make them pay for services not delivered. That certainly was not the promise when the nation's power assets were privatized years ago.
Such shylock arrangement, it must be said, only amounts to incentivizing the bad behaviors of the DISCOs. Once they are made to realize their revenue is tied to performance, there will be the push to sit up.
Over the years, deadlines have been set for the DISCOs by the power regulatory agency for consumers to be metered. But it is always convenient and profitable for the companies to breach same.
This writer is a victim. One has been waging a running battle with the DISCO in Edo State which will not supply a pre-paid meter to one's private residence in Benin despite repeated application. One had paid for a meter replacement to the old PHCN after the existing one got blown up by power surge.
On assumption, the Benin DISCO said they didn't have the records. So, it was convenient to begin to drop estimated bill at the gate monthly even when the cumulative energy supply for 30 days would probably not exceed 24 hours! Truth is: for our energy need, we depend largely on our own mini "power plant" of two weather-beaten generating sets with the public supply as a mere "back up".
Not content with the extortion by "estimated bill", the Benin DISCO later expanded the terror by cooking up a "crazy bill" indicating an exponential 1,200 percent hike of the former! It took a personal call to the highest authorities in the Benin DISCO before the "crazy bill" was reluctantly reviewed a bit downward.
Since, one has written and written, prayed, "dry-fasted", lobbied for just a pre-paid meter to be supplied, even at one's cost, without success. And we are told we cannot go out of our ways to procure one, except the one customized by the DISCO itself. So, one has had to draw more than a dose of the biblical Job's patience to endure all the shenanigans of the Benin DISCO ever since.
With Fashola's Monday declaration, one sincerely hopes the DISCOs will realize the game is finally up. We cannot be talking of efficiency in the sector if emphasis is how much return the DISCOs make on their investment without anyone asking how much value they bring to the table.
Thank you, BRF.