The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has ordered electricity distribution companies to refund monies paid by persons who did not receive meters under the scrapped Credited Advanced Payment for Metering Initiative (CAPMI).
The directive was given at a meeting between NERC and stakeholders in the power sector held in Abuja.
ThisDay newspaper reported that a communiqué on the dialogue was sent to it by NERC on Monday.
“The meeting re-emphasised the need to uphold customer service standards, especially as it relates to refund of monies collected from customers for meters under the scrapped CAPMI scheme. The Discos were directed to publish a reminder in any two national newspapers that customers who paid for CAPMI yet unmetered should come for refund with details of payment,” the statement read.
The regulatory commission also said it would bring an end to the era of the Distribution Companies (DisCos) discretionarily remitting what it felt like as payment for electricity purchased from Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) LTD.
It noted that the DisCos’ act of collecting revenue for electricity sold and returning whatever it wished to the market is dampening the desire of investors to bring capital into the industry.
At the meeting, which was the first the new Chairman, James Momoh, would have with the DisCos, NERC said it would create an open settlement system for the electricity market in the country.
Addressing the N72 billion loan obtained for the upgrade of distribution networks by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), the commission said the loan would be structured. It urged the DisCos to make good use of the credit provision.
Through the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), the discos had repeatedly kicked against the loan, saying they were not consulted in its procurement.
The roundtable spared time to deliver a strongly-worded rebuke to ANED, warning the body to desist from responding to the person of the Minister or NERC Chairman or any policy directive issued by the commission.
“Inter-relationships between electricity distribution companies were encouraged but activities of Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors were discouraged. A strict adherence to contract agreement signed by the commission’s licensees (DisCos) was re-echoed as the only binding legal entity that should form the continued relationship between the commission and electricity distribution companies.
“The meeting agreed henceforth the legal counsel of the electricity distribution companies representing ANED should never in whatsoever way interfere with the policy directives or regulatory pronouncements made either by the minister of power or the commission. That no unwarranted remark should be made by ANED representatives against the person of the minister, NERC chairman or against any of the NERC commissioners going forward,” the communiqué noted.
The commission also urged the DisCos to procure more smart meters in order to curb energy theft.
Under CAPMI, customers had paid as much as N24,000 for a single-phase meter and N53,000 for a three-phased meter. The discos had blamed foreign exchange challenges for the inability to render the services their clients paid for.
Analysts had, however, blamed poor customer enumeration as the reason distribution firms were unable to meet up with demand. In 2016, for example, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics had put the number of electricity consumers in Nigeria at around 20 million, while the DisCos had just over six million customers registered. With the Meter Asset Provider regulation in place, stakeholders hope the DisCos can meet up with the government’s mandate to meter all clients by 2019.