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Deceit and social injustice in estimated electricity billing


Electricity bill. PHOTO: Technology on Board

The menace of estimated electricity billing on non-metered buildings by the electricity distribution companies is worse than any form of social injustice anyone can think of.

Despite what the regulations say, the effrontery with which the personnel of these companies embarks on their revenue drive at the expense of innocent people makes one wonder whether this whole anti-corruption crusade is not a mere charade.
Estimated bills come in unimaginable amounts not justifiable by any sane standards and worse still, disconnection comes within days of non-payment wherein an extra fee is levied for a reconnection, at times with a ‘tip’ for speedy action if one is yanked off on a Saturday or late in the evening on a working day, in order not to spend the night or the next day in darkness. 

If finally the meter is installed, the estimated bills will be migrated to the metre with the deductions made over a period of time. When this is done, any amount loaded on the metre will evaporate like air.
This mafia and guerrilla enforcement of revenue at the expense of the poor citizens is the worst injustice I have ever seen in ages. Despite epileptic supply and at times no supply at all, the bills keep dropping in unreasonable amounts. The style of disconnecting the supply from a building which occupants “owe” some bills is absolutely ruthless. It is often targeted at a period when the affected residents must spend the night in darkness, due to the time of disconnection or in a manner that would not suggest that a disconnection occurred at all, then usual power outage would be assumed. There will be no iota of notice and the operation is often done speedily perhaps to avoid confrontation of any form.
The reasons behind these acts of wickedness in the name of sustaining a business at the expense of the people struggling to survive in a country where poverty alone constitutes major concerns cannot be understood. This continues to breed distrust between the government and the people especially when the regulators keep mum on the face of the outcry caused as a result. It is, therefore, the thinking that the entire hullabaloo about this and that Bills passing through the legislature is just a charade being created to hoodwink the people already under oppression by these electricity distribution companies. 
Otherwise, how would one justify a bill of N27, 000 per month in a two-bedroom flat that contains few electrical appliances and in less than three months, it has risen to N55, 000 per month without any explanation and still rising? In one of my inquiries, I was unofficially asked: “are you not staying in Gwarimpa? “ What terrible psychology! When the pressure for issuing of the pre-paid metre increased, the billing became scientific. Very huge sums would be progressively levied preparatory for migration of the accumulated amount into any prepaid metre that will be issued.
It is also the thinking that those that will complain against this cheating are often given palliatives in the form of either writing off the so-called accumulated arrears or not levying any at all in the first place. Some of them are given “special lines” with relatively steady supply and multiple phases where lights are not expected to blink because the metre toggles multiple supply sources. This is the same way they are blessed with free call credits at the expense of the poor people whose bills invariably settle these handouts. How then can an ultimatum to end estimated billing be enforced? How can the Electricity Bill be accelerated to forestall the dastardly acts of the distributors? How will the regulatory institutions be positioned to check these unimaginable acts? 

For an injustice of this magnitude to just be muted by the custodians of power tells much.

Offor is an Abuja-based legal practitioner.

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