#BounceExclusive: Will Pre-paid Meters Come Before Rapture?
Yemi Fadare moved into his residence at the Shasha area of Lagos State five years ago.
Upon arrival, he was embraced by an outstanding bill of over N20,000 left by the previous occupant of the apartment.
Apparently the previous occupants of the premises had a special understanding with the power officials. Yemi was the JJC.
The deal was simple - when the officials come to disconnect debtors a 'package' is gathered and the gods are appeased. They carry their ladder and pass over.
When Yemi moved in and was informed about the arrangement, he was not comfortable with it, so he met with the landlord, who gave him the go-ahead to obtain a pre-paid metre.
He applied for a pre-paid metre but surprisingly two years after applying, he is yet to get one as it has been one excuse or the another by the distribution company.
One Excuse, Too Many
Yemi is not the only alone in this predicament, many Nigerians have complained about the non-availability of the pre-paid metres after years on being on the waiting list.
The customers, in separate interviews with Bounce News condemned the delay by the Discos in installing meters in several houses more than two years after payment.
A resident of Coker Estate in Shasha, Kunle Makinde alleged that some officials of Ikeja Electric Disco are deliberately hoarding the meters in order to continue placing customers on "estimated bills".
Now that's another mischievous wonder - estimated billing - it refers to the idea of someone looking at a building and mentally calculating how much should be paid by the owner without using any parameter or yardstick backed by logic.
Another customer, Ijeoma Greenson living in Akowonjo, said that she has paid for a pre-paid meter a year ago, but has yet to get it installed.
Greenson said that her home had been receiving high estimate bills and she has always met a brick wall whenever she complains to the Ikeja Electric officials.
She said in the last six months, there has been inexplicable bills, yet irregular electricity supply.
“We used to receive N2,000 and N2,500 bills before now, but for the past six months, it is now hovering between N7,000 to N10,000.
“We still pay the same amount when there is no regular light. This is unfair,” she said.
She said that she lodged complaints with the officials who admitted there was a problem and advised her to get a pre-paid meter.
She said: “Thereafter, they asked me to bring N35,000 for the pre-paid meter.
“I made inquiries; some people say you don’t have to pay for it, while others say the official amount for the meter is N15,000.
"We don’t know which is true, but what I gathered is that the meters are not available."
An electronics dealer at Computer Village, Lagos, Chukwuemeka Isaac, said Nigerians have come to accept the introduction of the pre-paid meters, but still cannot access the metres despite various announcements by Discos that the metres are available.
“Go house-to-house in Lagos and tell me where you will see the pre-paid meters. How many houses are using the pre-paid meters in the state?
Pre-Paid Metre Remains Free
An official of the Customers Complaint unit of Ikeja Electric, Ponle division, simply known as Vivian, who spoke to Bounce News, said that metres are still free and are installed based on availability to areas and not necessarily to individuals.
She said, "If you look around, you would observe that most houses in this area have prepaid metres. This is so because it was their turn.
"As soon as it reaches an area's turn, we supply and it is for free but some individuals sometimes make special arrangement to acquire it."
Last week, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola said he has been receiving several requests from the Discos that their customers still wanted to pay for meters.
He said, “Please recall that government had in the past attempted to intervene in meter supply through Credited Advance Payment for Metering Initiative (CAPMI), which ultimately I decided we should wind down because of the distrust and disaffection it was creating between consumers and Discos with government caught in the middle with numerous petitions by customers who paid for meters that were not delivered within the approved time.
“Some Discos have come back to say that their customers still want to pay for meters and they can reach agreements with them on how to pay for it. Government will not stand in the way of such an agreement. It is consistent with the intent of privatisation envisioned by the Electric Power Sector Reform Act or at least it does not violate the Act.”
How long customers will have to wait before pre-paid metres are made readily available to them despite their willingness to pay?