Babatunde Irukera, the Chief Executive of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) (formerly Consumer Protection Council), has urged electricity distribution companies (DisCos) to solve the issue of estimated billing before increasing tariff.
He said this at the Eko DisCo Public Hearing on Tariff Review held in Lagos on Wednesday. He stated that increasing tariff at this stage would only place a burden on the over 55 percent consumers who are still unmetered. He added that the DisCos are “not billing them for more energy, you are billing them more for the same energy they are getting or not getting”.
Irukera said the decision to hike tariff has addressed only one often talked about problem, the others being energy theft and metering. He warned that it is not the consumers’ business that the businessman is paid, but rather the businessman’s responsibility to find a way to ensure he is paid for the services he provides.
He urged the DisCos to invest in their collection processes instead of burdening the few consumers who pay their bills with more. He reminded the company that the plans by DisCos in 2015 to supply 4.5 million people with meters in three years had failed as only about 250,000 and 29,850 meters were installed in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
“Everytime there is a revenue shortfall, those who are not metered would pay for it. And that is why estimated billing has now become another word for arbitrary billing. Because you are working your way back from the answer.
“You have a target. There are some people who are metered, who you cannot discuss that target with, because they are metered.
“And those who are in your estimated billing programme, those are the people you can manipulate their bills, those are the people you can negotiate a bill with. And so they take a brunt of it.
“And that would not be such a big deal it they were just 7 or 8 percent of your collectible. But they are more than half. 55 percent of your collectible are estimated, and you are under pressure to collect. You are under pressure to remit.
“And so even with the best of intention,… we know who the victims (of price increase) would be. And that’s who the victims are. And it seems that you have decided that increasing tariff is the only way to go,” he said.
Irukera said the question for consumers is not what is an appropriate or fair price, “it is one that that fair price is truly fair and transparent, all things considered.”