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Abuja Electricity Company Injects $200m For Pre-paid Metres

*Says, New Technology Will Bring Down Tariff

Some significant changes in the billing system of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) are expected to commence within eight weeks following completion of processes by the company to massively import pre-paid meters needed to activate the new electricity tariff regime.

The move is designed to eliminate all forms of ambiguity associated with the monthly arbitrary charges on customers and which has created bad blood on some occasions between representatives of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) such as marketers and the consumers within her areas of franchise.

On many occasions, staffers of the AEDC have had very bitter encounters with customers over bills charged. Whilst it is the mandate of the AEDC staffers to deliver bills charged by the contentious estimate billing system, the consumers kick over the cost of the charges.

Customers query the rationale behind such spurious bills as they cannot understand the parameters at which they are arrived at. This is especially so with the post-paid customers who may not be around and had their equipment all turned off yet a static bill is returned at the end of the month and must be paid. Ditto for cases of total power outage lasting six months, yet the officials of the electricity distribution company would insist that such bills must be paid.

Another disturbing aspect of the bills is the fact that even when power is not delivered to communities and households, bills still pour in, in some cases higher than the bills of the previous months. This has caused some quarrels between the staffers of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and now AEDC and the consumers of electricity.

The conflict usually experienced between consumers and officials of the electricity distribution company would be a thing of the past when the deployment of the pre-paid meters are completed to all house holds and electricity consumers, the company said.

All these came to the fore at a recently concluded Special Workshop On Tariff & Customer Enlightenment Programme on New Tariff. The Director, Customer Services, Engr. Ernest Mupwaya of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company said the “Customer enumeration is a must and a matter of survival”. He explained to the staffers that this exercise was more complex than census.

The move is not without recognition of some of the issues in dispute between the AEDC and the consumers. The authority of the AEDC noted that unmetered customers who have established dispute over contentious bills are to stay payment on such disputed bills and settle bills that are resolved. This will allow smooth running of operations while it will also ensure that the issues around the disputed bills are resolved.

As the new Census of customers will commence, AEDC pointed out to her staffers that “not all consumers are our customers.” Therefore, it behoves on the team of enumerators to engage the exercise with eagle eye, so as to capture those who circumvent payment into the data for the growth of the company.

This is a privately-owned corporation. It is no longer government-owned and all that idea of work or no work, there will be pay is over, such attitudinal burden cripples the corporation. They must be done away with. This time round more work will be involved. The challenge ahead are new opportunities for the corporation to improve on her customer relationship.

The AEDC impressed on her staffers the importance of a robust customer relation management which it has put in place to acquaint her staffers of the challenges ahead and the opportunities too when the prepaid meters are received, deployed and installed at homes.

Mupwaya said, already the decision of the company to make massive importation of the prepaid meters has cost the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company between $150m and $200m to provide the consumer with the pre-paid meters. Such investment cannot earn returns if the consumers and the AEDC workers are in a continual bickering engagements. “All hands must be on deck” to make the company work, make profit and meet its obligation to both staffers and consumers, without whom, “we have no business.”

Given the cost expended on the meters and the challenge of personnel/consumer compromises that often undermines the revenue of the power authority, AEDC is working to ensure that the new technology captured the introduction of a device built in to insulate the AEDC from loss of revenue through any form of compromise by its deviant employees.

The AEDC had noticed some sharp practices amongst its employees. This has led to various forms of compromises which in the long run short-changed the company.

“Under the new metering system customer will only pay for energy consumed, No energy supply, Zero Bill.”

Beside this, the meters are fitted with devices that enable them communicate with a mother meter in the group which in turn transfers an alert code to the central monitoring station for action.

He said the new technology being expected operates with a group of meters being monitored by a mother meter bearing specific sensors to identify any particular meter being compromised and relay the signals back to the central station for action.

The new regime with all its promises has its area of interest to the consumer. The bill will be higher initially with a gradual decrease as the year goes by. Low power users are further assured of low charges.

The AEDC boss who said Multi-Year Tarrif Operation (MYTO) would make customers at the initial rate pay higher, assured customers within its franchise zone namely: Abuja Niger, Kogi, Nasarawa and Kwara that the bills will reduce when the market becomes saturated.

He pointed out that there will no longer be fixed charges especially for post-paid customers. The new regime, he noted, will enable “us develop new source of supply within our franchise area to increase the amount of electricity to customer.

Customers are to get some freebies from the AEDC that help them reduce energy consumption. Part of these was the counsel to customers to use energy saving bulbs and regulation of their air conditioner at a stable low temperature which makes no difference of feelings but does on power consumption.