South East residents protest as EEDC dumps Prepaid Meters for estimated billing

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Residents of South-East are kicking against plans by the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) to dump prepaid meters they inherited from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and return to illegal estimated billing system.

On Friday, many residents who went to EEDC offices in Enugu to recharge their prepaid meters were told that the meters were no longer in use from January 1. The residents who were returning from Christmas holidays were advised to apply for estimated billing pending when a team of EEDC personnel would visit such customers’ locations to decommission the existing meters and get converted to a post paid connection.

It was gathered that the situation was the same in EEDC offices in Awka, Abakiliki and other major Eastern cities.

Some of the angry residents who spoke with our correspondent condemned the plan by EEDC to dump the prepaid meters for illegal estimated billing system. They wondered why EEDC which has not added any value to electricity distribution but in fact undermining untiring efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari in power sector was removing the functional prepaid meters and adopting the fraudulent estimated billing.

Commenting on the latest development, an Enugu based human rights lawyer, Olu Omotayo, described the action of EEDC as contrary to position of Power Sector Reform Act, 2005. Omotayo, who is the President of Citizens Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CCRAN), explained that under the law, EEDC lacks such powers, adding that only the Federal Ministry of Power or National Electricity Regulatory Agency (NERC) could take such action.

“The power to make regulations belongs to NERC. The DisCos are not private companies to make profit. You don’t as DisCo remove the rights of Nigerians to enjoy light. I am calling on the Federal Government to urgently take action and immediately cancel the licence of EEDC under Power Sector Reform Act,” Omotayo said.

He explained that the minister has power to cancel the licence of EEDC under Section 74 Sub Section 1 of the Power Sector Reform Act 2005. The human rights activist said the action of EEDC was tantamount to sabotaging Federal Government and throwing the South East region into darkness.

When contacted, the Minister of Power, Alhaji Saleh Maman, said Federal Government was not encouraging estimated billing, describing it as criminal. The Minister, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Aaron Artimas, said the Federal Government wants to do away with estimated billing as it was making it difficult to track the amount generated by the DisCos.

“The Minister recently visited a company in Lagos and they discussed how the company can produce 1000 metres daily. The Minister is also encouraging other private investors to come into meter production. Estimated billing is not acceptable. The Ministry is not encouraging it. But these DisCos want to shortchange the Federal Government by engaging in estimated billing. It is against the Power Sector Reform Act. We will raise the issue with the Ministry and NERC,” Artimas said.

On the calls for the cancellation of license of EEDC, Artimas said there was a recent reassessment of the DisCos, but he does not know whether EEDC came out successful, adding that most of the DisCos have not met 30 percent threshold of the payment.

It could be recalled that in 2013, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Osita Okechukwu had threatened to sue the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) for bending the rules to allow a preferred bidder buy a national treasure like Enugu Distribution Company Plc (ENUGUDISCO) against due process and the rules of the privatisation process.

Okechukwu, who is now Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), had said if within seven days, the agency fails to furnish him with information on the privatisation of Enugu Distribution Company Plc (ENUGUDISCO) in line with the Freedom of Information Act 2011, he would go to court to challenge the sale.

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