By Etuka Sunday
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has charged the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) to ensure fair Load shedding of power supply in its area of coverage as well as to adequately train its staff on good customer relation.
Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Sam Amadi, gave the charge during the public consultation and fact finding mission on the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) scheme which was organized by the Commission at Uyi Grand Hotel in Benin, Edo state.
The regulator gave the charge following complaints of alleged unfair power rationing by the Disco and alleged cases of rudeness of some its staff members by some electricity consumers during the interactive session.
Addressing questions, remarks and observations made by participants at the event, Amadi, who was represented by NERC’s Commissioner in charge of Engineering, Standards and Safety Regulations, Engr. Mary Awolokun, explained that the objective of the consultation is to enable NERC find out first hand from consumers about the Discos compliance to CAPMI and other related issues as well as to find out what challenges the company is facing in carrying out services to customers in its coverage area.
CAPMI is a scheme initiated by NERC whereby willing customers can advance funds for purchase and installation of meters. The payments would be subsequently refunded through a rebate on the fixed charge element of their electricity bills.
She assured consumers that the regulator will ensure that the Disco is fair in its load shedding programme. They should make sure that every customer gets equal supply of whatever power is allocated to the company. They should not give longer supply to areas where their friends and relatives live; every customer must be treated equally.
The regulator also frowned at staff rudeness to customers, “we lay emphasis on staff training, by this, we ensure the Discos train their staff to treat customers as king, we don’t want rude staff around”, Awolokun said.
On metering she apologized to customers with delayed meter installation complaints, majority of which dates back to pre-privatization; even as she commended BEDC for putting together a strategy to ensure all customers are metered despite the fact that the payments they made to the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was not transferred to it.
Responding to a question about the situation of electricity supply to Ekiti State which necessitated the state Governor, Ayo Fayose to pay a visit to the commission’s headquarter to complain of poor electricity supply. Awolokun assured that the problem which was transmission related has been rectified. She also revealed that plans are underway to provide an alternative electricity supply to Ekiti so that if one line has problem, another line can take over.
For this, according to Engr. Awolokun, arrangement has been concluded with the Ekiti State Governor to fund and revive the 150KVA line from Ilesha to Adoekiti constructed by Governor Ayo Fayose eight years ago when he was governor and which was abandoned immediately Adoekiti was commissioned. This assurance was also confirmed and collaborated by the Executive Director, Commercial, BEDC, Abu Ejoor.
Earlier in his presentation, the Executive Director, Commercial, BEDC, Abu Ejoor, who represented the CEO BEDC, explained that the money paid to the defunct PHCN by customers for meters pre-privatization was not transferred to the company adding that the Disco has no record of such payments.
He however, said plans have been concluded to meter all customers who fall in that category based on their presentation of reasonable proof of payments. He said the company has already purchased 7, 000 meters for installation for this category of customers adding that a public notice has been put up in national dailies for such customers to come forward for verification and subsequently, get their installations.
Ejoor also pronounced that all customers who attended the consultation forum and have their proof of payments will be metered before the end of the week, a pronouncement that elicited celebration amongst those in attendance.
He said the Disco presently have 800,000 customers captured in its data base out of which only about 300,000 are metered either on prepaid or estimated metering. He added that customer base is expected to hit 1.8million in another two months time as due to an ongoing data capturing programme by the company.
He further stated that “before November 1, 2013, a little over 27,000 meters were installed, but as at October 2014, BEDC has installed 36,932 meters since taking over. We have received 46, 000 requests out of which only about 8,000 customers are yet to get their meters installed due to various reasons.”
He said the Disco presently install over 5,000 meters monthly with plans in place to increase it to over 7,000 and reduce estimated billing across the its coverage area.