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Investors seek leeway as FG begins second phase of mass metering

By Kingsley Jeremiah, Abuja
08 October 2021   |   2:59 am
There are indications that the Federal Government will this month move to the second phase of the mass metering programme after failing to achieve projected objectives in the first phase.

Prepaid meter.

There are indications that the Federal Government will this month move to the second phase of the mass metering programme after failing to achieve projected objectives in the first phase.

With loan facilities from the Central Bank of Nigeria and the World Bank, the Federal Government had launched the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) to provide over four million meters as estimated billing encourages poor transparency, accountability and worsens tariff collection.

In the first phase, called phase (Phase 0), over one million meters were estimated to be deployed but the process was delayed as prevailing challenges crippled the roll-out of the assets.

A document that highlights some of the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari had in June, disclosed that about N60 billion was provided for the first phase of the programme.

The Guardian learnt stakeholders in the sector had gathered in Lagos last month crystallizing the workability of the next phase and decrying the challenges that greeted the phase.

Apart from exchange rate related issues and port hurdles, the government struggled to meet projections as many companies involved only provided false information about their capacity as the initial optimism of possible improvement in local assemblage or manufacturing of the asset suffered.

Special adviser on Infrastructure to the President, Ahmad Zakari had earlier disclosed that the Federal government, last month, concluded arrangements for the commencement of the second phase of the metering programme.

Of the one million meters expected in the first phase, Zakari said 750,000 meters have been delivered to DisCos in eight months.

“For phase 1, a central procurement mechanism to be overseen and supervised by NERC will be employed to ensure that meters are secured at the lowest possible cost, thereby reaching the goals and objectives of the NMMP.

“The commencement of the procurement process of Phase 1 has been done strategically to ensure that there is no gap in meter supply to customers as the NMMP transitions from Phase 0 to Phase 1.

“The Minister of Power has emphasized the administration’s commitment to eliminate the metering gap by 2023,” a release from Zakari’s office noted.

A meter manufacturer and Director, Kayz Consortium Limited, Prince Kalu Ikpemini said the government appeared to have learnt lessons from the first phase of the programme and was optimistic that the second phase would be less challenging.

His concerns were the need to prioritize local production and limit imports from other countries, especially Asia countries, insisting that the country may be exporting jobs and foreign exchange instead of assisting the local economy.

He decried that prevailing challenges that pushed phase zero of the programme to almost a year, instead of lasting for six months, adding that policies needed to be consistent to allow investors to plan.

Ikpemini stated that the CBN must find a way to deal directly with manufacturers, disclosing that commercial banks were frustrating the loan process as the interest rate is not realistic for manufacturing activities.

“They are talking about a 20 per cent interest rate. That doesn’t work with manufacturing, no matter how you look at it,” he noted.

According to him, his firm focused on alternative funding sources to remain in business.

Ikpemini wants the government to consider a single-digit interest rate for the manufacturing sector with a moratorium for expansion.