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PHCN: Where are the pre-paid meters?

News » Editorials

Date: 21th March, 2013

Image: PHCN

One of the strongest legs of President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda, is the provision of adequate and uninterrupted power supply. It is upon this leg that the President hopes to give his economic policy, a major component of the agenda, a jolt in the arm.

It is however regrettable that just as the President has begun to sing the victory song on the success of his plan, following what he believes is a giant stride in the upping of electricity generation, the Nigerian people who are supposed to be beneficiaries are singing a different tune.

Recently, the President said on the Cable News Network (CNN), during an interview with its ace Correspondent Christiane Amampour that the power sector is one area all Nigerians, including his greatest critics had agreed that the government had kept faith with the people. Expressing surprise that she was insinuating that electricity was still a major problem in the country, the President in fact, promised that by the end of this year, the situation would have been stable.

But is that optimism being shared by Nigerians? The question is an emphatic NO. Undeniably; there was actually a period in recent times when it appeared that the President’s enthusiasm was beginning to make sense to Nigerians. But that optimism, has since evaporated like water poured on a hot stove.

In fact, not a few attributed the improvement to the handiwork of former Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, who has since left the office, albeit, in controversial circumstances.

But even during that ‘glorious era’ as some people see it, many Nigerians, had also stated that the situation, rather than resulting from the activities of those in the power sector, was a function of the rise of water level at the Kainji Dam, one of the major power generating facilities in the country.

Given the situation in the country at the moment, when the situation has become worse than before, as darkness has virtually taken over the country, many are forced to believe the other explanation of nature being at play.

In fact, the mantra of government officials that the nation is now generating about 5,000megawatts of electricity as against the 2,000megawatts, when the present government came into power, seems to have forced the people to take another look at the sincerity and intention of the government.

However, our major concern in this obvious sad story is the manner Nigerians are virtually being swindled by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the agency which is currently in charge of distributing electricity in the country.

Last year, the Executive Chairman of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Sam Amadi, was on a nationwide campaign where he promised consumers of electricity that they were in for the most wonderful times in their relationship with service providers as they would not only get first-rate services but do so under sound and effective infrastructure.

This included that ending the issue of estimated bills in no time as there was to commence massive distribution of prepaid meters, at no extra cost to them. The role of the consumers was to accept an increment of between 50 and 100 per cent electricity tariffs. Even when the argument was put up that the envisaged infrastructure should be provided first, those canvassing it were told that it was only when they paid more that investors could be attracted in the industry and therefore they should accept the chicken before the egg.

Of course, because they had little alternatives, except to resort to their generators, they had no choice but to accept their fate, especially given the flowery picture the NERC boss painted.

Today, that promise has not only become a mirage, to say the least, but a major heist is being carried out against the consumers.

Not only are the prepaid meters nowhere to be found, even the regular meters are not read. What this means is that virtually all the consumers, except the lucky ones who were the first set of beneficiaries to get the prepaid meters are on estimated bill.

In fact, it appears that the authorities have been carried away with the big kill they have been making from the helpless consumers that they have completely forgotten about the issue.

The PHCN obviously sees the 500 or 1,000 per cent gap between estimated bills and prepaid meters as a windfall and therefore is no longer interested in further distributing the prepaid meters.

We don’t want to believe this, but the organisation is giving us no choice at all. If indeed, there is nothing fishy, why is it that about three years after the idea was hatched, the prepaid meters are no longer being distributed?

There is no need stressing the advantages of prepaid meters which is akin to the present situation in the telecoms sector as against the days of NITEL monopoly. That is why we dare ask: Where are the prepaid meters? Where are Amadi, NERC, Nigerian Consumer Protection Council (NCPC), and the Service Compact with All Nigerians (SERVICOM)? All of them should come together and ask PHCN, where the prepaid meters are, because Nigerians cannot continue to be losers at every turn.

Article Credit: Daily  Independent News

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