Communities seek debt rebate months after prepaid meter deployment
It’s a tale of different stokes for different folks. While some communities are daily lamenting the burden of excessive and outrageous billing by electricity distribution companies, thereby seeking to be given pre-paid meters, some communities in Shomolu area of Lagos State who have recently been metered are yet to migrate from the analogue meters or estimated billing to the prepaid meters.
The Guardian gathered that as part of its ongoing metering deployment across its network, Ikeja Electric (IE) recently deployed over 1,500 meters to its customers in Shomolu, which is noted for its huge concentration of printers and other heavy consumers, but checks revealed that about 660 customers are yet to migrate and utilize the new meters owning to their failure to meet the demands of the disco in offsetting their previous accumulated bills.
Chairman of Shomolu Community Development Committee (CDC), Mr. Adedapo Oduguwa, commended Ikeja Electric for the massive deployment of meters to Shomolu and environs, but advised the firm to ensure that migration of customers to the prepayment metering is made a lot easier by looking into the contentious issues relating to outstanding electricity bills.
“This will enable customers migrate immediately to recharge after exhausting the initial token installed in the meter. We request for debt forgiveness. So many properties are abandoned and not occupied but are still served bills which is mounting. It is not easy for some people to clear the backlog because it was previous occupiers of the buildings that accumulated the bills passed down for so many years. If the company makes the migration easy for us, we will be in a position to spread the gospel that meter is free just as the police will say bail is free,” he said.
Also, president of the co-operative society of the association of printers in Shomolu, Chief Babajide Mark Anthony, expressed his joy at the new development and confirmed that the association is ready to cooperate with the disco to ensure smooth operation. He further advised the firm to fast-track the installation of meters and also attend to minor complaints on time, in order to build more trust and instill confidence in its customers.
The Business Manager of IE in charge of Shomolu, Engr. Taofeek Ifasanya, when contacted, said the company has made migration easy for customers. According to him, “we want consumers to come forward with their bills and pay 30 per cent of their outstanding, the rest can be spread out over a long period of time as long as they recharge their prepaid meters. Customers should not hide under the guise of community associations to frustrate the company’s efforts of metering more people, but should on individual basis come to our office to make their claims and dispute about their bills.”
In his reaction, IE’s Head of Corporate Communications, Felix Ofulue reiterated IE’s position to sustain the metering exercise in an equitable manner such that all category of customers that are yet to be metered will definitely benefit from the roll-out plan.
However, the company spokesman expressed concerns about the trend of asset compromise being witnessed in some the areas that have already been metered. According to him, “our records reveal that a lot of customers who were recently metered, especially in Shomolu and environs have not vended or purchased units on their meters several weeks after exhausting the initial token. Typically, this is the process that should follow after the complimentary units on the prepaid meter have been exhausted.
He called on metered customers to resist the urge to bypass meters, rather urging them to manage their energy consumption prudently. He also warned that IE would apply the authorized sanctions against any customer who engages in the act of meter bypassing.
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