A 2018 survey by Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) of Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) customers found 40% of those interviewed were not receiving any electricity at all due to grid failure in the area, and half of those who did get electricity had it for less than four hours a day.
Reliable power is essential for schooling and local businesses, and to avoid the polluting diesel generators and kerosene lamp alternatives.
SDN’s key recommendation from the survey results was for BEDC to work closely with its customers to increase understanding of its services, and the importance of taking stewardship over its facilities to curtail theft, vandalism, and improve grid supply.
To encourage the implementation of this recommendation, SDN has worked with BEDC and target communities to create Community Advocacy Working Groups (CAWGs) that serve as a point of contact between BEDC and its customers in each community it serves, reporting on supply complaints, instances of corruption by BEDC staff, and electricity theft and vandalism.
On September 8, 2020, SDN said it organised a training between the BEDC and 16 CAWGs from Delta State at BEDC State headquarters in Asaba.
The training was to improve CAWGs ability to advocate and engage stakeholders in Delta State. The training also covered how to effectively use WhatsApp groups to share success stories, as well as report electricity theft, corruption, and electricity supply complaints—whilst recognising and avoiding posting fake news to the group.
The groups restated their commitment to work with the Community Electricity Committee to prevent theft and vandalism of their electricity assets.
Inspired by the training, the Ughelli CAWG mapped stakeholders and embarked on advocacy visits to those with influence or responsibility for replacing a damaged transformer that cut the local area (Afiesere junction) off from accessing grid power for over two years.
The CAWG visited and complained to the Business Manager in the area and aids of Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie – Omo Agege.
The CAWG’s visit to the Deputy Senate President aids was successful, and a new 500KVA transformer was supplied to the community. According to Prince Akpofure from the Ughelli CAWG,
Research from a survey conducted for customers in selected Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) business districts has found widespread inadequacy in the reliability of the electricity supply to households and businesses in the area.
Insufficient electricity supply stunts the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises, limiting the creation of employment opportunities for the large unemployed and underemployed population in Nigeria.
This, in turn, has implications for tackling insecurity in areas such as the Niger Delta, and boosting regional and national growth and development. Whilst this survey and report are limited to the operations, and operating area, of the BEDC, many of the problems highlighted here are indicative of those experienced across Nigeria.
To increase understanding of its services, billing and metering systems, and the importance of taking stewardship over its facilities to curtail vandalization and boost grid supply.
Improve customer service and communication to build trust between BEDC and its customers, and improve the complaints system so that issues are resolved quickly.
The BEDC existing customer service system is saddled with limitations such as poor customer services and relations; and complaints response time.
BEDC should endeavour to incorporate into their communications strategy the characteristics and preferences of customers in reaching out to them for prompt resolution of issues and improved service delivery. For example, with regards to customer feedback channels, the BEDC should revamp its online platforms – website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to enable it provide real time response to consumer complaints/inquiry.
SDN is urging that electricity price must be seen to be fair to customers, especially those whose bills are based on estimation. There is also need for effective implementation of the billing system introduced by BEDC – the Electricity Billing Management System (EBMS)
Tackle corruption and electricity theft by introducing anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies at BEDC and making this part of training for new and existing members of staff.
This should include communicating messages to communities about the dangers of tapping lines and how it makes power less reliable and lower quality, the help in tackling electricity theft.