The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, has warned that there will be trouble in the power sector if the National Assembly decides to criminalise the issuance of estimated bills by power distribution companies to unmetred customers.
According to NERC, a regulation that deals with estimated billing already exists in the power sector, stressing that another law on the matter may lead to a complete disorder in the industry.
The House of Representatives recently commenced moves to outlaw estimated billing of consumers by electricity distribution firms after the presentation of a bill sponsored by the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, which sought to prohibit the issuance of such bills to consumers across the country.
Reacting to the move by the House during the April 2018 Power Dialogue organised by Nextier Power in Abuja on Wednesday night, the Commissioner, Finance and Management Services, NERC, Nathan Shatti, said the commission had met with the lawmaker, who sponsored the bill, to explain why it would not be right to have such a law at the moment.
Shatti said, “Few weeks ago, a bill was presented on the floor of the House of Representatives about criminalising estimated billing and ensuring prepaid meters supply. We went to meet the main sponsor of the bill and we told him that we already have a regulation on this to address the issues. And we told him that you should go by that rule, there would be chaos in this industry.
“We then told him something; we said, ‘sir, if there’s anything you can help us do in this industry today as a lawmaker, it is to please help us criminalise energy theft and meter bypass. This is because with such a law, anyone who thinks he is the boss and he bypasses his meter and is caught, he is not just going to pay N2m, but will go to jail.
“And even if this is for one week, it will be in his record and he will not be able to contest in an election. That is the kind of law we want.’ And honestly, he (lawmaker) was happy with our submissions and he said they were going to look into it.”
“So, we really like what they (lawmakers) are doing and this is because they are bringing to the fore the sufferings of people for all Nigerians to know. They do this because they have the voice and they have constituencies to go back to. Also, remember that 2019 is by the corner; they have to show their people that they are doing something,” he added.
Shatti said, “Next week, a team from NERC is going to Ghana, because we got a company that is actually devising a kind of meter that can detect energy theft. They came, made a presentation and we felt what they are showing is good and so, our team is going to Ghana to look at it.
“But let me just explain something about meter bypass or energy theft; it is beyond regulation and it is beyond enforcing the regulation. It is also beyond technology. There is no amount of technology or checks that you will do to eliminate energy theft.
“However, there are things you can do and it has to do with our moral psyche as Nigerians. If you check properly, the calibre of people who steal energy are the top guys. They are those people who you think will never do such things, not the small people in the society. So, it is a problem of a society and we all have a responsibility to stop it.”