• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Buhari’s metering rollout yet to make ‘crazy bill’ history

Buhari calls for unity, support for leaders

Failing to meet the set target, the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) has left millions of electricity customers stuck with what many describe as ‘crazy estimated bills’ from the distribution companies (DisCos).

President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration launched the NMMP in 2020, with the aim of increasing Nigeria’s metering rate, eliminating arbitrary estimated billing and strengthening the local meter value chain by increasing local meter manufacturing, assembly and deployment capacity, among others.

With a N120 billion intervention fund from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the DisCos were expected to provide electricity consumers with 6 million meters for free between 2020 and 2023.

However, two and half years after the programme was launched, it remained stuck in its first phase, which the government termed phase 0.

In the first phase, the federal government installed about 900,000 free prepaid meters for electricity customers as against a target of 1 million.

The second phase (phase 1), which was expected to have commenced at the end of 2021, has been on hold as stakeholders fault the payment plan of the government while expressing distrust in the government.

Lanre Elatuyi, an energy analyst, said improper monitoring and poor funding structure hampered the successful execution of the programme.

“The changes that occurred in the leadership of some distribution companies also affected the programme because most of them could not continue with the payment plans,” he said.

For him, even though it was a good initiative, stakeholders, especially meter producers, are not satisfied with the government’s funding plan.

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He said: “It was a good plan initially; the first phase was to give out 1 million meters to Nigerians but it was not achieved. The programme is faced with several challenges including funding.

“The meter producers do not agree to the unit cost that the federal government is willing to pay per unit of the meter. Some of the meters supplied in the first phase were not fully paid for.

“So this disagreement has affected the continuation of the programme. Many meter producers that were engaged in the first phase are yet to get back their money.”

Elatuyi highlighted the need for the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to wake up to ensure that the sector is appropriately regulated.

The general manager/head of the public affairs department, NERC, Usman Abba Arabi, said the NMMP is still in progress.

BusinessDay gathered that most of the DisCos have returned to the Meter Asset Providers (MAP) scheme, following the failure of the NMMP.

Under the MAP scheme, customers have the option to pay upfront the full cost of the meter with the assurance of a refund via electricity units over a period of 36 months.

Prepaid meters under the MAP scheme are currently sold for N117,910.69 (three phases) while single-phase goes for N63,061.2.

This high cost of getting meters, among other factors, has left many Nigerians with no option but to remain under the estimated billing.

According to NERC, of the 12,643,630 electricity registered customers, only 39 percent (4,898,721) had been metered as at June 2022, leaving 7,744,909 without meters.