• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

DisCos post 50 apologies as bad service persists

Power sector revenue shortfall, illiquidity – Need for local PRG solution

Electricity distribution companies (DisCos) are struggling to sustain the 20-24-hour supply to their customers on the band A plan, issuing at least 50 apologies in one week after the approval of a 240 percent tariff increment
, according to findings by BusinessDay.

Since the announcement by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) of the tariff hike for Band A customers on April 3, the DisCos have tendered 51 apologies to their various customers for power outages/shortfall of supply in their business district, according to social media platform X.

Port Harcourt DisCo (13), Abuja DisCo (11), BEDC (7), and Kaduna DisCo (7) recorded the highest number of notices made available on their X handles while Jos DisCo (2), Enugu DisCo (2), Kano DisCo (2), and Yola DisCo (2) tender the lowest number of apologies.

“Dear esteemed customer, kindly note the current service shortfall experienced in areas where we did not meet up with the contractual supply hours on the 10th and 11th of April, 2024,” Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company said in its latest tweet.

BEDC Electricity Plc said: “Dear valued customer, we wish to sincerely apologise for not meeting up with the required minimum service level of 20 hours on the feeders below.

“We are taking steps to ensure consistent and reliable power supply in the affected areas. BEDC is committed to upholding our service level agreements.”

Amid the apologies, some customers lamented that despite paying exorbitantly for electricity following the tariff hike, they were experiencing poor supply in their different neighborhoods across the country.

For Mercy Uzordike, a single mother running a small kiosk, the past week has been a relentless cycle of inconsistent power and disappointment.

But the most frustrating part, according to her, isn’t the lack of electricity but the lack of answers.

“They keep apologising on the radio and social media, saying they’re working on it,” Uzordike said. “But this week alone, it’s been 11 apologies! How many apologies does it take to get the lights back on?”

Uzordike’s experience reflects the growing anger among Abuja residents facing persistent blackouts and a seemingly endless loop of unaddressed complaints.

DisCos have taken to social media and radio broadcasts, apologising for the disruptions. However, for many residents in bands B, C, D, and E, these apologies ring hollow without concrete action to improve service.

John Uwajuoma, a security guard who relies on a fan to keep cool during his long night shifts, echoes Uzordike’s frustrations.

“The heat is unbearable,” he said. “I can barely sleep during the day, and then at night, there’s no power. I filed a complaint a month ago, but nothing’s changed.”

While some residents remain hopeful that the recent flurry of apologies signals a genuine effort to improve service, many are skeptical.

“I’d rather have light than an apology. We need action, not empty words,” Uzordike said.

According to the latest annual report of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the bulk of complaints received were from the power sector.

“Some of the recurring consumer complaints handled by the Commission in the electricity sector were wrong, estimated billing, non-provision of prepaid meters, unlawful disconnection, harassment by DisCos, no provision of infrastructure (electric poles, transformers, and accessories) and poor customer service,” the commission said.

Reacting to rising complaints, Adebayo Adelabu, minister of power, assured Nigerians that consumers on other bands won’t be shortchanged by DisCos as the regulators won’t hesitate to wield their big stick on any of such discos.

“The government has been working on ramping up power generation from about 4,000 megawatts to 6,000 megawatts in the next six months,” the minister said on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme.

He said 25 percent of the country’s power generation is from hydroelectric power while the remaining 75 percent is from gas plants.

The minister said: “The gas that is supposed to be the raw material has not been coming in adequate proportion” but the government has been working with electricity generation companies to ramp up power generated for the benefit of Nigerians.”

He said the President Bola Tinubu administration plans to decentralise power generation across states of the federation and strengthen transmission and distribution of the energy to power the country’s industrial transformation.