By Bassey Udo
Amid a raging controversy over the installation of electricity supply assets in the country, the electricity sector regulatory authority, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) on Wednesday clarified that electricity consumers do not owe any obligation or responsibility to buy and install transformers or any other assets for electricity distribution companies (DisCos).
The Commissioner Consumers Affairs, NERC, Aisha Mahmud, gave the clarification in Abuja at the three-day NERC/ Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) Customer Complaint Resolution Meeting.
“It is not the responsibility of the electricity consumers to buy and install electricity supply equipment, like meters, poles, or any other assets for the DisCos, because provisions have already been made for that in the tariff of the utilities,” Mahmud said.
“In circumstances where the consumer has to purchase these items and cannot wait for the DisCos to make the required investment, NERC has also made provisions under “Investment Regulation to take care of that, ‘’ she added.
Mahmud said the Commission came up with a regulation called investment in the network, adding that based on law, if an electricity customer has to purchase a transformer, it has to be done through an agreement with the DISCo.
She said in the agreement, the DisCo must state when and how the consumer would be refunded the cost of that transformer, meter or assets acquired.
“The agreement should contain a dispute resolution clause and all other items that are expected in a standard agreement.
“What we expect from the DisCo is to use their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to buy those assets, or use shareholders’ investment or borrow from the banks to purchase those assets
“In the event that they are not able to buy those assets, customers can come in and they have to be refunded.
“So, what the consumers don’t know is that the regulation exists and they go about making all sorts of investments which DisCos say are donations to them, because there are no formal agreements,‘’ she said.
The Commissioner said it was part of NERC’s responsibility to also educate electricity customers on their rights and obligations as well as all they are supposed to know about the electricity market.
She said the Commission realized that most consumers in Nigeria did not know about the existence of the regulatory authority, or a lot of their rights under the laws guiding the operations of the electricity industry in the country.
“It was our duty to tell the consumers that it is their right to get a meter as DISCOs are not doing them any favour to issue them a meter,” she said.
Mahmud said that NERC’s mandate also included educating the consumers on their responsibilities, such as the issue of installation of meters, bypass, or tampering with meters and other assets.
“They should know that the DISCOs are just merely collection agents, and the revenue they collect is not entirely their own, as they have to pay for gas suppliers.
“Pay the Transmission Company (TCN) and the generation companies so that customers should know that once they touch the utilities they are also surcharging themselves,‘’ she said.
Also, the Commissioner in charge of Planning Research and Strategy, NERC, Yusuf Alli, said the forum was an opportunity for customers’ voice to be heard and their rights upheld.
Alli said most times the complaints received by NERC from customers were often that when they complained to DISCos, the resolution took too long.
“But with this forum, the expectation is that complaints will be resolved quickly,‘’ he said.
The Managing Director of AEDC, Adeoye Fadeyibi, said that AEDC was committed to meeting their customers’ demands.
Fadeyibi who was represented by Head Regulatory and Government Relation AEDC, Olajumoke Delonia, said the idea of the forum was to address customers’ complaints, and commended NERC for their initiative.
“AEDC is prepared to look into the complaints of their customers and quickly resolve them,‘’ he said.
A customer, Aigbokhalode Asmiafele, who also attended the meeting said he was there to make a complaint about how AEDC was operating, especially in the area of irregular electricity supplyand billing.
“It is my hope that AEDC will look into the issues raised and address them, ‘’ he said. (NAN)