By Yusuf Yunus
Stakeholders in the power sector have attributed the price increase in prepaid electricity meters to fluntuations in foreign exchange market, increase in Customs charges and Naira devaluation, among others.
The stakeholders, who expressed their concerns in seperate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Lagos, said another factor was multiple charges by different government agencies at ports.
NAN reports that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), on Sept. 5, granted approval for an upward adjustment in the prices of prepaid electricity meters.
The cost of single-phase prepaid meter is now N81,975.16k, up from the previous N58,661.69k, while a three-phase prepaid meter is N143,836.10k as against the previous N109,684.36k.
Mr Kunle Olubiyo, President, Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, said that the position of importers of the semi-finished pre-paid meters and meter assembling plants owners was that the prices should have been higher.
According to him, the importers and plant owners wanted the price of a single-phase meters to be N90,000 while a three-phase at N160,000 or more.
Olubiyo said that, in the main time, stakeholders should work out a modalities that would make possible for electricity consumers to acquire already calibrated electricity meters at designated point under strict supervision.
“This should be in accordance and with the synergy by
Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency, Electricity Distribution Licensees, Meters Assembling Plants and Representatives of end users customers.
“Considering the low income or disposable incomes of an average Nigerian, it might be difficult for many to afford the new rates without a mechanism for refunds via electricity token.
“This may further increase the huge metering gaps in the electricity market,” he said.
The power expert said that the 40 per cent price increase did not come as a surprise as importers of meters and meters assembling plants had been clamouring for upward review in the last 12 months.
Olubiyo said that it was the duties of electricity consumers in the electricity market to provide meters or fund the deployment of meters meant to enhance cost recovery, energy accountability and returns of investment for electricity distribution companies or
He said that the service level agreement is strict obligation pledged by the electricity distribution companies and distribution licensees as a condition precedent to acquisition of the licensees.
Prof. Yemi Oke, a legal consultant and energy advisor, said the price increase was unavoidable, considering the present situation in the country.
“It not for meter alone, even those goods that are manufacturered locally. It also affects imported meters, assembled in Nigeria or manufacturered in Nigeria.
“The component of the meter has gone up given the current exchange rates.
“There is need for government to look into the issues of forex, particularly for metering. What matter is that people should have access to meters and the meters are properly calibrated so that no consumers are shortchanged.
“Consumers should ensure they have meters to be able to manage their consumptions against estimated billings.
“I’ll also advise that the issue of metering should be left with meter manufacturers and Discos should not have businesses in metering, being a business and distinct component of electricity services.
“That could be monitored just like the case of telecom.
“The important thing is that Nigerians has access to meter and be able to regulate and moderate consumption patterns as against subjected to estimated billings,” he explained.
Oke also said he did not subscribe to the Discos upgrading meters.
“May be if some meter had been calibrated in a way. I’ll advise that Nigerians should not be subjected to meter manipulation or calibrated in a way to reap them.
“There is no evidence that existing meters are faulty or malfunctioning. There is no point calling for upgrading or calibration,” Oke added.
Similarly, Mr Adetayo Adegbemle, Convener, PowerUp Nigeria, said that the increase in meter prices was a response to the changes in the economic indices.
Adegbemle said: “I think we should give some kudos to NERC for not loading the full effect on the published prices.
“However, this is an opportunity to further push for reverting to local content and manufacturing as effective measure to control prices of meters.
“We have pushed for the use of funds saved from fuel subsidy removal to effectively address this issue of metering gap.
“This is something that will definitely reach and help Nigerians to also manage their funds,” he said.(NAN)