Bill to Criminalise Estimated Billing System by Discos Introduced in House
James Emejo in Abuja
A bill to prohibit the issuance of estimated electricity bill to power consumers across the country has been initiated in the House of Representatives.
Sponsored by the Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos), the proposed legislation has consequential orders criminalising such billings method which many Nigerians considered as extortion – giving the electricity distribution companies (Discos) discretion to unilaterally determine the estimation of electricity bill to be paid by consumers in the event that such consumer does not have pre-paid meter.
He assured Nigerians that legislators irrespective of party affiliation, would push through the masses-oriented bill until it is signed into law.
Gbajabiamila added that it would permanently address complaints by constituents across the country who have argued that the unfavorable technical manipulation of the reading pattern of existing pre-paid meters led to incommensurate calculation of purchased electricity credit and electricity consumed by customers.
Essentially, the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (amendments bill) which had been read on the floor of the House for the first time, would be further debated by the House upon resumption from the Easter recess.
According a press statement issued by the media aide to the House Leader, Mr. Olanrewaju Smart, the bill became necessary following several complaints from constituents across the country who felt that policy adjustments by the executive cannot arrest the highhandedness of the electricity companies but instead called on lawmakers to use full weight of the law to address the problem.
As a result, the Principal Act is amended by creating new sections 68 to 72 as follows to allow that estimated billing methodology is hereby prohibited in Nigeria.
It stated that every electricity consumer in Nigeria shall apply to the Electricity Distribution Company carrying out business within his jurisdiction for a pre-paid meter and such consumer shall pay the regulated fee for pre-paid meter to be installed in his premises and the Electricity Distribution Company shall within 30 days of receiving the application and payment install the pre-paid meter applied for in the premises of the consumer.
Further subsection of the new Section 68 empowers electricity consumers to ignore paying estimated bill and also exempts from electricity disconnection in the event that no pre-paid meter was issued to them by their power distribution company within 30 days.
The bill stated: “If a customer is not metered within 30 days after application has been duly made, the relevant electricity distribution company is prohibited from refusing to connect the customer or disconnect the customer in the event that the customer has been connected or estimate his bills.”
Also, the newly introduced Section 69 of the 2018 Electric Power Sector Reform Act (amendments bill) is poised to address the alleged technical manipulation of the reading pattern of the existing pre-paid meters and unknown tariff methodology.
It noted: “Upon connection, the Electricity Distribution Company serving the Consumer must inform the customer in writing on the nature of the meter installed, tariff methodology and all other services available to the customer.”
The bill further recommends imprisonment of six months for officials of relevant electricity distribution company found guilty of illegal disconnection, refusal of the disco to connect a customer after application, un-metering within 30 days of a customer applying for a pre-paid meter and issuance will of estimated billing.