The Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) has explained why electricity distribution companies (Discos) assume ownership of equipment voluntarily made available by customers for use by their networks.
In a statement signed by ANED’s Executive Director for Research and Advocacy, Barr. Sunday Oduntan, the body said it boiled down to a matter of indemnity and safety-critical protection.
“Many people have asked that question and the answer is simple, and we feel it is important to shed light on it for the sake of public awareness. It is a case of indemnity and protection.
“The DisCos take responsibility for any incident that happens with those infrastructures. It is important for Nigerians to understand that Discos have a responsibility to ensure that only good quality equipment duly certified by Nigerian Electricity Management and Safety Agency (NEMSA) are installed in our network.
“After installation, Discos have to take steps to protect such equipment such that it will be safe for use by customers. We have had occasions when some transformers that were installed in the days of PHCN, for instance in Lugbe, Abuja, caused electrocution. We need to protect the equipment and ensure that access is only granted to qualified personnel. People have lost their lives because they were trying to ‘maintain their transformers’.
This is why we ask customers to write a letter of donation to the DisCos. If the items do not belong to the DisCos, they cannot exercise any right over the use of the items, nor should they bear liability for any incident that occurs thereafter.
“It is our responsibility as DisCos to make electricity infrastructure available and we do a lot of this. However, in situations where the demand is far more than supply due to a shortage of funds, customers do step in to help their communities. Since privatisation, our members have invested considerably on improvements in their networks since 2013.
“However, in a reality where the absence of infrastructure was excruciatingly acute across the length and breadth of this country before this phase of our power reforms, and considering the huge cost of revamping inherited networks as well as the very critical need for power supply for homes and businesses, it is understandable when communities of customers decide to step in rather than take the option of waiting till resources needed to services their needs are appropriated by their respective Discos.
“The issue of community volunteering is very clearly stipulated by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). For those who follow NERC’s laid guidelines, there will be no argument at the end of the day,” Oduntan said.
He also said accusations surrounding disconnections and reconnection fees charged by Discos were unfair, saying disconnection is a legitimate recourse available to the service providers under certain conditions and the reconnection fee is a penalty to dissuade repeat offenders and cover cost.
“Now, most times, we hear complaints by customers regarding disconnection. The truth is that there are clear grounds for disconnections. Disconnections are not random and there are clear guidelines stipulated by Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) under which disconnections can take place.
Disconnections can occur when a customer owes accumulated bills of over 90 days. Other grounds for disconnection include when a customer is found engaging in energy theft or tampering with distribution equipment,” Oduntan said.
“It is statutory to charge a fee to cover the operations and to deter repeat offenders. This is not a practice that is restricted to Nigeria only. Time and resources are expended in both disconnecting and reconnecting a customer due to the act of the customer. If there is no penalty attached to that, then there is no deterrence,” he said.