Electricity is the engine of industrial development and growth in any society or country. This is why nations invest a good chunk of their income in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity to homes and industries at affordable cost.
However, this is not the case in Nigeria, where it seems the objective is not to make electricity available to the consumer but to make money at their expense by the Distribution Companies (DISCOs). In the past three months or so, residents and businesses owners in most parts of the country have suffered epileptic electricity supply.
However, recently the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) recently jointly resolved to enforce the mandatory 60-day order to electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) to either meter or stop billing consumers under the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) scheme.
NERC had, in its recent directive to the nation’s electricity distribution companies, ordered that “a customer who elects to procure meters under the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) must be metered within 60 days, failure in which the electricity customer will neither be billed nor disconnected by the electricity distribution company”.
In order to give a bite to the order, the two agencies during the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) agreed to collaborate to enforce the implementation of the order and other steps that would ensure conducive environment for consumers and investors in the sector.
However, in spite of the signing of the agreement between the two agencies, the experience of the residents and business owners in many streets in Papa Asafa, Agege Local Government of Lagos State, has been bitter.
When Newsherald asked the residents and business owners how they have been coping with the epileptic power supply in the area, Mrs Ayo Oladokun, who manages a small business in the area said: “it is an overstatement for you to describe electricity supply to this area as epileptic because in the last two, three months I can count the number of hours that we have had light in this area on my fingers. What we have experienced since the beginning of the year is almost total blackout.”
The businesswoman added: “Most of the businesses in the have closed shop and those that are still operating are just managing to stay afloat. Indeed doing business in this area is no longer profitable because we have to totally depend on diesel and generators and this is very bad for us as residents and business owners”.
She added that despite the fact that the area has been in near- darkness in the last three months, Ikeja DISCO has been given them “terribly high bills that we are forced to pay at the end of every month.
When Independent sought to know what she and other residents and business owners have done about the issue, the lady said they had made a series of representations to the authorities concerned and nothing had been done to change or improve what she described as “the deplorable situation”.
However, Oladokun lamented that it was not the non-supply of electricity that pains residents and business owners on the area the most. What pains them, according to is the fact that Ikeja Distribution Company sends bills to them on a monthly basis.
For Abbas Adekunle, 61, the situation has been harrowing. He said he built and moved into his house about 16 years ago and had been enjoying what he described “the good life on t he average until early in the year when my life and that of my family members came down crashing to the ground as a result of the non-supply of electricity to this area that has been neglected by the government and Ikeja DISCO. “
According to Adekunle, who run a business in the area using two rooms in his house, his pain stems from there areas that are “threatening my very existence”. First he says he now lives in total darkness for weeks on end.
“Since the beginning of the year, electricity supply to this area has been epileptic and in fit and starts. We have had to rely on generators to power the fans at in order to get a semblance of sleep. Apart from the buzzing mosquitoes, we also have to contend with the noise from the generator.”
He continued: “The worst thing about whole issue is not just supplying us with electricity, it is about the fact that the Ikeja DISCO continues to send us bills at the end of every month. Whenever we complain or protest about this extortion and blackmail, officials of the distribution company will threaten to disconnect from the poles and this is very annoying.”
Adekule said that residents and business owners in the area are suffering what he described as “double jeopardy”. Asked to explain what he meant by “double jeopardy, he said, “the first jeopardy is the fact that we do not get in spite of the billions of dollars the Federal Government has invested in 5the sector over the years. The second jeopardy is that we being forced to pay for a service that we have not received. This is very unfair and there is the urgent need to stop this daylight robbery before some us take the law into our hands.”
Another resident and business owner in the area, Oladimeji Lawal, told Independent that the power situation has almost crippled sachet water business. “My brother”, he said, “the power situation in the country, especially in this area is a death sentence on business.
“In the past power supply to this area was epileptic, but we hardly get power at all and I do not know what crime we have committed. However, all this has not stopped the DISCO from sending us outrageous bills that we are forced to at the end of every month”.
Other residents and business owners, who spoke on the with Independent, flayed the treatment they had received at the hands of Ikeja DISCO, accusing the authority of playing tricks with them.
Said Ola Akanni, “what they do is to wait until the day they want disconnect the wires of those who have not paid for the month, they will not give us power. On they come to disconnect power, they will bring light and after that they cut the light until the next month. This is unacceptable and we are going to resist it”.
Others said they tried on several occasions to acquire pre-paid meters and had been told come back all the time.
When our correspondent went to the headquarters of Ikeja DISCO to get its own side of the story, a young and fair complexioned lady at the front office told our correspondent that the entire Public relations Department were out.