Fashola, power firms oppose bill to criminalise estimated

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Babatunde Fashola

The Minister of Power , Works and Housing , Mr . Babatunde Fashola , and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission on Tuesday opposed the move by the House of Representatives to criminalise estimated billing by electricity distribution companies in the country .
All the Discos , represented by the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors , also kicked against the bill .

The House Committee on Power opened a public hearing on the bill in Abuja on Tuesday .
The bill , which was sponsored by the Majority Leader of the House , Mr . Femi Gbajabiamila, had as title , ‘A Bill to Amend the Power Sector Reform Act to Prohibit and Criminalise Estimated Billing by Discos and provide for Compulsory Installation of Pre -paid Meters for all Power Consumers in Nigeria ’ .
However , lawmakers ignored the opposition , saying that the much that could be done was to incorporate some of the views expressed by stakeholders in the legislation .
Gbajabiamila, who participated in the hearing , said it was not justifiable to continue to ask consumers to pay for power not consumed .
Giving his reasons for opposing the bill , Fashola state that it could destroy the entire power sector , adding that the financial challenges of metering must first be addressed .
The minister told the session that though the Discos had a contractual obligation to provide meters, it was not their core mandate .
Fashola stated , “And I take it that we all know what is core mandate . Their core mandate is to supply energy .
“My view is that let new players be licensed to have the supply of meters as their core mandate to take the load off the Discos. ”

He added that energy theft and meter bypass must be addressed too by prescribing heavy penalties against offenders .
On its part, ANED told the session that the law would simply promote darkness in the country .
It noted that the first response of the Discos would be to disconnect supply to customers who had no meters in a bid to escape punishment over estimated billing .
It claimed that more than 150 countries in the world , including the United States , Turkey , Germany, Brazil , Egypt, Chile , China , India , Indonesia , Italy , Japan, Jamaica, Algeria , Australia , Angola , Belgium and South Africa were using estimated billing .
ANED stated , “The estimated billing system should be simplified for the understanding of the consumers and the operators to provide for transparency in application .
“Legislative effort should be applied to criminalising energy theft and meter bypass , and creating electricity special/ mobile courts. This will assist in catalysing the desired large scale metering within the sector .”
NERC , represented by a commissioner , Mr . Dafe Akpeneye , adopted a similar position , warning that 50 per cent of power consumers would lose their connection if the law was applied without first addressing the challenges of metering .
“The law needs to be amended, but this is not the amendment we need . Criminalising lack of metering is not the way out now,” the NERC official stated .

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