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Expensive darkness: Discos better at distributing bills than electricity



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By Odunewu Segun

With about N2.74 trillion spent by successive governments on power since 1999, and meagre result of less than 5,000MW of electricity for an estimated population of 170 million, Nigerians are becoming increasingly alarmed at the worsening state of electricity supply in the country.

To compound their woes, many of which do not have meters, are sent exorbitant electricity bills at the end of the month, which they must pay or face the risk of disconnection.

Drawing comparisons to electricity supply in Nigeria and South Africa, It is “laughable that the megawatts generated for a population of over 170million people have never gone beyond 5, 000 megawatts compared to South Africa of just about 50million, yet with over 44,000megawatts in spite of about N2.74 trillion invested by the government between 1999 to 2015 till date, with no significant improvement.

From the guesstimates and other billing methods of the DISCOs, it is clear they are better at distributing bills than electricity! Why for instance will providing electricity five-day period within thirty days translate to about N5, 000.00? Does that, in any way, mean that if consumers are supplied electricity uninterruptedly for thirty days, the corresponding bill at the rate in question, will thereafter translate to N30, 000.00 per month for the average consumer?

Some consumers spend between N5, 000.00 and N3, 000.00 daily on Diesel, some spend between N2, 000.00 and N500.00 daily Petrol and yet others spend between N200.00 and N100.00 daily on Dual Purpose Kerosene averaging N1, 800.00 daily or N54, 000.00 monthly for the average electricity consumer in an effort to bring some reasonable level of power into their lives and livelihood in a country with all manner of constituted authorities.

A single phase meter is being issued for N35, 000.00 while a three phase meter costs about double that amount. Yet, these meters are supposed to be provided free of charge to consumers. Instead, consumers are appealed to buy them and get back their investments from the monthly billing!

Why would a consumer invest so much in the property of another at a time like this and why would a daily electricity supply at an average of four hours translate to almost N5, 000.00 per month?

Describing the huge power deficit as unacceptable and embarrassing, a former human rights activist and now Senator of the Federal Republic, Shehu Sani, said Distribution Companies (Discos) are now distributing darkness despite increment in electricity tariff.

Similarly, a civil society group, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), said has it’s the PHCN, the DISCOs, NERC that owe Nigerians money and apologise for not rendering services that they received money for and continue to receive money for, albeit, forcefully.

“The Discos and NERC can take a cue from Telecommunication sector by providing meters; fixing the cobweb-like cables that dangle over the heads the people, mount poles etc. first, any other approach is like putting the ‘cart before the horse’ and therefore illegitimate and irrational,” the group noted.