Members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday condemned excessive and estimated billing by electricity distribution companies in the country, alleging that the Discos were being operated by fraudsters and persons with the mindset to rip off Nigerians. They also accused the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, the regulator of the power sector, of colluding with the Discos or being helpless while Nigerians were being ripped off. The lawmakers spoke during a public hearing held at the National Assembly on the “need to curb excessive electricity charges being levied on the consumers by Discos.”
The session was chaired by an All Progressives Congress member from Osun State, Mr Ajibola Famurewa. The House is currently considering a bill to criminalize estimated billing by the Discos. Officials of the power firms risk a jail term of six months by the time the law comes into effect for failing to provide prepaid meters to their customers. At Wednesday’s public hearing, angry lawmakers noted that the Discos seemed to be enjoying estimated and excessive billing to the detriment of Nigerians, as doing so was serving their business interest. One of the members, who is from Zamfara State, Muazu Lawal, said, “It appears that the Discos and other stakeholders are not ready for the job before them.
You just go about billing people the way you like without considering the actual power they consume. This happens everywhere in the country and even here in Abuja. “From what is happening, I think the Discos are either operated by fraudsters or they are just extorting money from Nigerians. If you are not ready for the job, tell us you are not ready. Go to the government and say you are not ready.” Another member from Kwara State, Mr Oluyonu Tope, told the session that NERC was not doing its job as a regulator. He noted, “If Nigerians are to cast their votes on the performance of NERC, it will be that the agency is a complete failure.
“The failure of Nigeria’s economy today is lack of power. NERC is one of the major stakeholders leading Nigeria to failure. NERC, you are a failure.” Three other lawmakers, Mr Nnanna Igbokwe, Mr Solomon Maren and Mrs Joan Mrakpor, spoke in the same manner. However, NERC tried to put up defence for itself and the Discos, stating that it had never abdicated its regulatory duties. The Chairman, NERC, Prof James Momoh, gave some instances when the Discos were fined N134.1m for violation of electricity regulations. “All the reports related to the fines are published annually. NERC is taking measures to improve on the services by the Discos.” But, he failed to convince the committee members.