Impending Electricity Tariff increase and the question of corresponding improved service delivery

File photo: Power grid, Source Pulse Ng.

More than enough has already been said concerning the important roles of energy in the economic development of any nation. So I will not bore you with rambling details of the connections between the two.

On the other hand, Nigeria's power sector can best be described as a perennial underachiever when it comes to meeting the energy needs of the country.

Notwithstanding the humongous amount of money that has been spent to reposition the sector especially in the last twenty years of the nation's democratic experience there is still very little to show for it.

Over $16 billion dollars was reportedly spent on the sector by the Obasanjo administration alone.

As we speak, the stories in the public domain are those of culpable misappropriation of the nation's hard-earned resources.

This is because it is either the contractors cannot be traced after receiving mobilization funds or they actually come to sites only to disappeared shortly afterward without doing what they were actually contracted to do.

Successive administrations have also appropriated a substantial amount of money to the sector with a view to making it performs at optimal level.

This is in addition to reforms and a certain unbundling exercise or privatization if you like which saw its name (as if that's all that was wrong with it) metamorphosis from National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) to Power Holding Company of Nigeria, (PHCN) and then Generating Companies of Nigeria (GENCOS) and the Distribution Companies of Nigeria (DISCOS) respectively.

Yet, like Yoruba will say: “Instead for the coconut leaves to soften, the stronger they have become".

In a nutshell, the generating capacity of the GENCOS has hovered between 4,000-7,000 megawatts in the last eight years or so.

This is grossly inadequate for a country with a population that is not less than 170 million. Which also mean it hopes of industrialization and growing an economy with the capacity to absorb its teeming youths will continue to hang in the balance.

The DISCOS, on the other hand, have not been able to deliver on a sustainable basis the required energy to the customers who are overburdened with estimated billings for non-provision of prepaid meters among a host of other institutionalized high-handedness.

Despite also the government fondling with the idea of energy mix namely the incorporating clean renewable energy of solar and wind as a way of augmenting the shortfall from hydro and thermal plants spread across the country. And we hear of pilot projects here and there in this regards.

Still, where all these have left us is a state of near energy paralysis and I'm not being harsh on the system.

With this in mind, yet, Nigerians have every reason to look forward to better days ahead especially with the next level agenda of the Buhari administration appearing to be unfolding.

However, going by the mood of the people who live within my space it is nothing but shocking to hear of an impending electricity tariff increase that will take effect from January 2020 in the midst of what can best be described as an epileptic power supply around the country.

According to the National Electricity Regulatory Commission, (NERC) the step to raise electricity tariff in the country is necessary to help save the sector from imminent collapse and it is taken in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders.

I'm more than convinced that the stakeholders mentioned by NERC did not include the energy consumers who are bound to bear the brunt.

If at all they were involved in the round table discussions that have led to this pronouncement, I bet it would have been deadlocked because I don't see how a people that have been crying on top of their voices over unmet expectations from the energy service providers, DISCOS will have conceded to such a rape. It would have been nothing but suicidal.

Tariff increase, definitely, is not the wisest of decisions by anybody in a sector that is bedeviled by a lot of unresolved customers relations issues if you ask me.

I think at this juncture a few more will suffice. Outstanding is the issue of prepaid meters which has been ongoing for as long as I can remember which also the raison d’etre is for the annoying subject of estimated billings.

Clearly, if prepaid meters are made available then estimated billings automatically becomes history.

There is also the issue of debt carry over. For instance, if a customer owes and he vacates the property on which the bill is incurred the expectation is that the next tenant(s) will automatically have to bear such outstanding bill.

Even where there is a theft of electric installations customers are also made to pay for a replacement. I don't think it is done anywhere and that makes it unfair and it should be looked into.

Another thing is the fact that over time it is the communities who buy cables and transformers. And once the installation is done and the transformer energized, it automatically becomes the property of the power authorities.

The best rewards I think that is accrued to the concerned communities are to be supplied electricity for a specified time.

But I would like to see a scenario whereby an individual or a group having to buy cables or transformers completely expunged from the equation.

It should be the responsibility of whoever is supplying power to provide all the conveyance items like what is obtained in the Telecom sector. After all, the items in question are enduring by design.

Besides, if some of the suggestions put forward here are implemented, it will help to eliminate the need for power companies' workers moving around to enforce compliance and frictions will be minimized.

Their need to move around will be limited perhaps to where there is a report of emergency which may involve broken poles, damaged cables and transformers.

To cap it all, tariff increase whether now or in the nearest future without a corresponding service delivery in the form of resolving all of the pertinent issues surrounding the nation's power sector as raised here is not only rape of the rights of Nigerians, but it is also for crying out loud evil.

Failure to do the needful before the tariff is raised means the power authorities should brace up for a long drawn battle which may include the non-payment of bills as and when due; and violent confrontations with designated power officials which pockets of it are already prevalent across the nation.

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