Could it be that the Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola has been in support of estimated billing of electricity consumers while pretending to be committed to ending the practice all along?

That is the question on many Nigerians’ minds after the minister joined the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC on Tuesday to oppose a move by the House of Representatives to criminalise estimated billing by electricity distribution companies in Nigeria.

As expected, all the Discos, represented by the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, also kicked against the bill.

The House Committee on Power opened a public hearing on the bill in Abuja on Tuesday.

The bill, which was sponsored by the Majority Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had as title, ‘A Bill to Amend the Power Sector Reform Act to Prohibit and Criminalise Estimated Billing by Discos and provide for Compulsory Installation of Pre-paid Meters for all Power Consumers in Nigeria’.

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However, lawmakers ignored the opposition, saying that they would incorporate some of the views expressed by those in opposition in the legislation process.

Gbajabiamila, who participated in the hearing, said it is not justifiable to continue to ask consumers to pay for power not consumed.

Giving his reasons for opposing the bill, Fashola stated that it could destroy the entire power sector.

The minister suggests that the financial challenges of metering must first be addressed.

He told the session that though the Discos had a contractual obligation to provide meters, it was not their core mandate.

"And I take it that we all know what core-mandate is. Their core mandate is to supply energy.

"My view is that let new players be licensed to have the supply of meters as their core mandate to take the load off the Discos," Fashola said explaining his position.

He added that energy theft and meter bypass must be addressed too by prescribing heavy penalties against offenders.

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