August 17, 2017
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, is dismayed at the back-pedaled position recently taken by the Federal Government over the much talked-about free supply of the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Initiative (CAPMI METERS by the DISCOs). The directive then for the supply of the CAPMI meters was solely to replace the old-fashioned and exploitative billing system that could only belong to the analogue era. It was purportedly aimed at responding positively to the seemingly unending cries of the average Nigerian consumer of electricity. So quite expectedly consumers received the news with so much excitement, hoping that their sufferings would soon end.
That Nigerians have overtime been bearing the pains of poor electricity supply and with no hope of relief in sight has become a situation that’s extremely intolerable and unacceptable. The apparently extortionist-prone billing system which allows the distribution companies (DISCOs) to charge consumers for services not rendered while applying all forms of arm-twisting methods to extort money from the latter must be halt. There is no logic in transferring consumers paying for meters at all. It is akin to asking them to pay for meters at fuelling stations.
When sometime last year, the Minister of Works, Housing and Power, Mr. Raji Fashola came out to direct the DISCOs to supply the CAPMI Meters, otherwise known as Pre-paid Meters, FREE OF CHARGE, to their customers, consumers generally heaved a sigh of relief from the massively condemned arbitrary billing system that lacks all rational justifications.
Consumers generally have reasoned that, even though they are helpless over their fate in regard to the consistently deplorable state of power supply, implementing the Minister’s directive would at least relieve them of having to pay for services not enjoyed. Following this directive it was observed that some DISCOs went out to effect the installation of the CAPMI meters especially in some parts of the city of Lagos but for a relatively insignificant fraction of the populace.
However the exercise was short-lived; consumers kept wondering why. No reasons were given by the DISCOS for the sudden discontinuation until the Minister, issued further directive that the exercise should wind down “because of the distrust and disaffection it was creating between consumers and DISCOS with government caught in the middle with numerous customers who paid for meters that were not delivered within the approved time.” He is also quoted as hinging his action on the excuse that the action has not violated the Electric Power Sector Reform Act in any way. What does this therefore mean? Well it simply means that the DISCOs can continue to exploit the helpless consumers at will!
Record also has it that, even though customers out of frustrations had indicated their readiness to pay for their meters, the meters were still not made available.
The contradiction in the position of relevant parties in the whole thing is particularly disturbing: while Fashola maintained that meters could be procured from any source so long as the source meets the approved specification and that government has not vested the monopoly of supplies to the DISCOS, we reliably gathered that approval of meters for supply lies squarely with the relevant DISCOs and it’s most unlikely that any DISCO would want to accept meters brought from elsewhere.
Clearly, we see what the government has done here as sheer abdication of its responsibility to the people and a brazen act of irresponsibility and insensitivity to the plight of the same people that voted it into power.
Indisputably, with this unfortunate policy reversal on the part of government in regard to this issue, majority of electricity consumers who are still connected with the old exploitative ‘crazy bill’ system, would remain at the mercy of the merciless DISCOs as their hope of a mass supply of the much desired CAPMI meters may remain hanging in abeyance for a long time to come. The DISCOs make far more money in the ‘crazy bill’ system than the CAPMI. They rather would prefer operating the archaic method which swells their bank accounts.
CACOL therefore demands that government revert to its former directive that the CAPMI meters be supplied to all and sundry if only to demonstrate to Nigerians. The attempt to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ is not acceptable and must be rejected by Nigerians. Quintessentially, it must be stated that this situation has fundamentally been thrown up by the fraudulent privatization of the power sector. This crisis and the associated ones all stem from the fallacy of ‘government has no business in business’ (market fundamentalism).
The mode of governance where the commanding heights of economy such the power sector are handled to private hands who are majorly cronies of the corrupt ruling class that been lorded over the socio-political and economic spaces in the country in successive governments since the incursion of neo-liberalism in the late 80s.