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Metering gap persists despite CBN’s intervention

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[FILES] Some of the free prepaid meters being tested by engineers at the flag off of the distribution of free meters to 100,000 EKEDC customers under the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) . PHOTO: NAN

‘Getting Meter Is Like Carmel Going Through Needle’
• Port Challenges, Forex Shortage Affect Scheme

Challenges dogging metering of electricity consumers in the country, yesterday, were highlighted, as stakeholders in the sector insisted on results from the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) intervention, which aimed at bridging the nation’s five million metering gap.

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The Federal Government, last year, launched a mass metering scheme backed by the CBN.

Industry experts, yesterday, said progress remained dismal compared to projected objectives of fast-tracking metering of consumers to eliminate estimated billing and enable the Federal Government to reduce subsidy spending in the sector.

The Special Adviser to the President on Infrastructure, Ahmad Zakari, said the N120b capital expenditure (CAPEX) fund was being provided by the Central Bank for Distribution Companies (DisCos) to improve infrastructure, especially the metering challenges.

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Zakari said the Federal Government through funding options from CBN, installed about 600,000 meters but industry experts said the progress fell short of the projected plan.

Introduced in September 2020, the metering scheme aimed was at increasing Nigeria’s metering rate, eliminating arbitrary estimated billing, strengthening the local meter value chain by increasing local meter manufacturing, assembly, and deployment capacity.

While the programme was expected to see DisCos toll out six million free meters over the next 18-36 months to unmetered consumers, less than a million meters have been offered almost a year after the plan was birthed.

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National President, Association for Public Policy Analysis (APPA), Princewill Okorie, said the sector might not have taken proper advantage of the apex bank’s initiative.

He noted that despite the intervention, consumers were still being forced to procure the asset, although it was meant to be free.

Okorie decried that progress on the scheme has been relatively dismal in the face of lingering arbitrary billing.

President, Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, Kunle Olubiyo, said the scheme and financial interventions remained lauded but demanded an urgent review.

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He said: “Getting a meter is still like a carmel going through needle. Some consumers have their money but can’t even get a meter although it is meant to be free,” he said.

Olubiyo called for the dedicated port that would enable the local assemblers to seamlessly clear their kits, adding that there was a need to address inherent foreign exchange challenges.

The Association of Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) had earlier called for an upward review of the current price of prepaid meters by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to meet the challenges occasioned by rising inflation, adding that upward movement of foreign exchange rates, associated increases in customs costs, increase in container freight costs, and the disruptions in the international supply chain were creating a global increase in the prices of raw materials and components for the manufacture of prepaid meters.

A meter manufacturer in Abuja, who is the President of Kayz Consortium, Kalu Ikpemini told The Guardian the company was struggling to clear components at the port.

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