Electricity Distribution Companies of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) may have been extorting consumers through the fixed charge contained in the tariff.
BusinessDay learnt that consumers who have paid in full for their prepaid meters are not supposed to pay the fixed charge, but distribution companies are making them pay up to N500 every month in that regard.
The National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) told BusinessDay that it never said consumers should not pay for pre-paid meters as is being currently misconstrued, but rather it introduced the fixed charge in the tariff, for consumers to gradually offset the cost of the meters, which currently cost N25,000 per unit.
The commission said it considered that paying the full sum of N25,000 at a go, would be burdensome for most consumers, so it decided to spread out the payment in monthly N500 installments, attendant to the tariff.
It added however, that the distribution companies failed to remove the monthly N500 fixed charge from the tariff of those who had purchased the meters outright and in one payment.
By NERC’s arrangement, it would take a consumer about 48months to complete the payment for the meter.
Eyo Ekpo, NERC’s commissioner, Market , Rates and Competition, when asked why the commission reversed its decision that consumers should now pay for pre-paid meters, said, “we did not ask electricity consumers not to pay for pre-paid meters , but our intention was that the pre- paid meters were to be paid for
through the fixed charge included in the tariff”.
Ekpo said the intention was misconstrued by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria officials who have said that they cannot finance the purchase of the prepaid meters if they were not paid for out rightly by consumers.
Some PHCN officials who spoke to BusinessDay, however contradicted the commissioner. They said the position of NERC was that meters should be free.