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‘Electricity complaints top FCCPC’s intervention list’

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A technician fixes a power supply cable on a pole in Ilupeju district of Lagos, on September 8, 2020. – The Nigerian government has dumped a decade-long pricing regime for petrol and electricity allowing marketers to fix prices resulting in anger and tension in the oil-rich Africa’s most populous country of 200 million people. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Commission laments DisCos’ careless attitude to consumers

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has lamented the poor service delivery of Distribution Companies (DisCos), saying it has left most consumers frustrated, with the majority resorting to self-help.

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FCCPC Executive Vice-Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Babatunde Irukera stated this at the commission’s Electricity Consumer Complaint Resolution Platform for Eko and Ikeja Electricity DisCos supported by MacArthur Foundation.

The commission warned that a situation where consumers are made to pay above their consumption would be resisted, saying the agency has been inundated with complaints from electricity consumers across the country.

He decried the huge level of complaints emanating from the power sector, saying of all the sectors regulated by FCCPC, complaints about Discos’ activities topped the list.

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Unfortunately, he said, FCCPC is only a mediator because it lacks the power to turn on and off electricity and also lacks the power to reverse bills but can only follow up to ensure that consumer complaints are addressed.

He charged the DisCos to be sensitive to the plight of consumers, adding that the immediate challenge of the DisCos is not about inadequate supply to consumers but the lack of transparency in their day-to-day dealings with customers.

The FCCPC boss said unmetered customers have a right to withhold payment of disputed bills and pay only the last agreed bill pending resolution by the DisCo or Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

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Irukera charged the DisCos to improve on service delivery, including the turnaround time for complaints resolution, stressing that when complaints are left unresolved for a longer period, the tendency for a customer to get agitated is almost certain.

“It is worrisome that the majority of the issues we attend to are from the power sector. That tells you that something is fundamentally wrong somewhere. And not until the root cause of the issue is addressed, we may not get out of the woods.

“If I may ask, why should it be the FCCPC that would bring both consumers and DisCos together in a bid to resolve issues? This should not be the norm. DisCos on their own should regularly engage consumers in a bid to address their complaints.

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Also speaking, Deputy General Manager, Consumer Services, NERC, Shittu Shaibu, said that the Federal Government is doing all it can to ensure that issues around estimated billings are resolved once and for all.

He said this informed its intervention through the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) bankrolled by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which targets to meter six million customers over the next 18-36 months across the country.

Shaibu said consumers should ensure to demand their right, saying a customer who has been wrongly or illegally disconnected is meant to be compensated by the DisCos for the number of days such disconnection is in force.

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He explained that the NERC forum offices have been established in the 36 States of the country to address various consumer breaches, which infringe on their rights.

In a reaction, the Head Consumer Service Department at Eko Electricity Distribution Company Mrs Iyiola Ezichi who explained the process of complaints resolution said the prepaid meter remained the solution to some of the challenges.

The high point of the event was the immediate response and resolution of some of the complaints ranging from the issue of excessive billings, metering and disconnections from consumers who came from different parts of Lagos.

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