…..Lawmakers, NERC differ on communities purchasing transformers
Angry electricity users stormed the town hall meeting organised by House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee investigating means of Curbing the Excessive Electricity Charges Levied on Consumers, on Monday with tales of woe.
The meeting was for customers in the North Central zone. Earlier. The committee had been to Lagos, Enugu and Yola.
Many of the consumers who came from Kogi, Niger, Nassarawa and the Federal Capital Territory to the session that held in Nassarawa on Monday, took turns to present their complaints.
The areas of dissatisfaction highlighted included over- billing, non- supply of electricity, rude staff, none- supply of transformers, ignored complaints and low voltage to mention a few.
The displeased customers also did have not compliments for the Managing Director of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) Ernest Mupwaya , even as they raised various questions especially on the estimated billing system and issues on operational inefficiencies and inadequacies.
During the tense meeting, there was a major argument on if Communities that buy transformers for themselves in a bid to assist in providing electricity should be compensated or not.
While the members of the Rep. Ajibola Farumurewa- led committee were of the opinion that communities that buy infrastructure like transformers are assisting the Distribution companies and hence should be compensated with a more compassionate billing, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission rejected the suggestion, saying communities have no business purchasing transformers.
The question had been asked by some of the community leaders who were present at the customers engagement forum on why in spite of buying the transformers and lines as well as providing security for the transformers in some cases, their bills increase.
A member of the committee, Rep. Agboola Kehinde had noted that communities that purchase infrastructure for distribution companies should be encouraged and compensated and not punished with higher bills.
According to the lawmaker, there has been complaints of higher bills especially from communities that purchase transformers on their own accord as an intervention in bridging the power infrastructure gap.
Sometimes, the transformers were not energized when they were donated by well wishers and highly placed individuals and Organisations, he noted.
Another member of the committee, Rep. Onyemaechi Mrapkor was of the same opinion saying that a community that takes a step to assist a distribution company in its mission of providing electricity to make profit should be compensated.
However, Olisa Chukwuma, from the Consumer Affairs Division of NERC, told the gathering that whatever infrastructure on ground belongs to the distribution companies irrespective of who procured it and hence communities have no business buying transformers.
He said in a situation where anyone desires such intervention, there are laid down rules and procedures guiding such interventions.
For AEDC Managing Director, Ernest Mupwaya he further explained: “This was a big practice before the takeover. Because of the liquidity issues, communities come together to put up infrastructure so they can have electricity.
“On the one side, it’s a noble approach to getting electricity, on the other side, it’s not a perfect solution. It has its flaws. One flaw could be in the area of specification of the equipment being used. Instead of concrete poles,mothered could be a compromise to use wooden poles.
“There are also compromises in conductors, if it’s 50mm, you can unwrap it to 25mm and use it. The electricity has its own danger as you can have high incidence of conductor cuts and electrocution.”
He said because of such, communities are meant to sit with the DISCOs and agree on parameters before embarking on any intervention.
The Chairman of the Committee stated that after the interactions in geo- political zones “we’re going to lay the report before the House.There are rules and regulations governing the sector and if there is the need to amend the laws or reenact them, the parliament will do so”.