The House of Representatives yesterday commenced a legislative process that may end the era of estimated billing regime in the nation’s electricity market.
The House is considering a bill seeking to amend the Electricity Power Reform Act 2004.
Sponsored by the Majority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and others, the Bill scaled second reading. If passed into law, the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) would be compelled legally to every electricity consumer with prepaid meters.
This would also put an end to the prolonged lawlessness in electricity billing in which consumers are forced to pay for electricity not supplied.
By the provisions of the amended Section 67 sub-section 1 of the Bill, the lawmakers also proposed to criminalise non-provision of prepaid meter to a consumer after application and illegal disconnection of consumer’s light among others with a fine of N500, 000, or six-month jail term.
According to the section, failure to carry out the provision of the proposed law would attract a six-month jail term, a fine of N1 million, or both.
Hon. Gbajabiamila, who led the deliberation on the general principles of the bill, said that feedback from Nigerians showed deliberate extortion of consumers by the DisCos, adding that the amendment is imperative to fill the gaps in the existing Act.
He said: “The Electricity Regulatory body can direct that all consumers be provided with prepaid meters immediately and by the stroke of a pen, can also direct that the prepaid meter no longer be provided for one reason or another. So, if this is backed by law, such can no longer happen.”
The Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, said that he had to disconnect his un-occupied house in Bauchi on which he was being billed N80, 000 monthly by the DisCo.
Similarly, the Deputy Majority Chief Whip, Hon. Pally Iriase, described estimated bill as a serious financial oppression, linking the abuses in the electricity market to the flawed process of power sector privatization.
Iriase regretted that “the people who were handed our commonwealth for nothing and making millions out of it could not add any value to it.
“These are the same people who don’t want to install the meters even after the consumers have paid for the meter, they kept on giving excuses”, the lawmaker added.
While Hon. Muhammad Monguno (APC, Borno) wondered why estimated bill is not the practiced in Chad, Sudan and others that Nigeria supplies power to, Hon. (Mrs.) Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (PDP, Abia) regretted that corruption had eaten deep into the nation’s power sector system and described the abuses as unacceptable.
In his contribution, Hon. Sergius Ogun (PDP, Delta) lamented that the N215 billion intervention fund given to the sector, and by extension to the DisCos, had yielded no positive result in real terms.
Specifically, the Principal Act was amended by creating new Sections 68 to 72 as Section 68 (1) prohibits estimated billing methodology in the country.