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Electricity consumers groan under epileptic power supply, crazy bills, intense heat


A prepaid meter in one of Nigerian Home //Photo: Sustain Nigeria

From the East, West, North and South, electricity consumers across the country have experienced serious power outages. At best, they get epileptic power supply and crazy estimated bills. The intense, suffocating heat of the dry season, as well as scarcity and high cost of fuel where available, have made matters even worse.Across the divide, the story and experiences appear the same but differ in magnitude.

Speaking to The Guardian on Nigerians’ power dilemma, Vice Chairman, Greenfield Landlords and Residents Association, Okota, Lagos, Emma Okoro, said the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IEDC) has constantly failed in its responsibility to provide residents constant power supply.

“The IEDC has not been giving us constant power supply. This is despite the fact that we bear the cost of electrifying the estate. The company has not bought anything for us since we started developing this estate. It comes to share bills, collect money or disconnect light. “The situation is very bad, especially as it appears the government is helpless in disciplining the company. They have not even meter the estate, whereas they have metered nearby streets to the estate,” Okoro said.

If this is happening to residents of Lagos, one wonders what Nigerians across the country are facing, especially in the rural areas.This is despite the fact that the national grid recently recorded unutilised generation capacity of 3,032 Mega Watts (mw) out of the 4,138.03mw electricity, according to data obtained from the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.This means that the country only utilised 1,106mw, which is far below the electricity demand of 21,390mw. The continuous unutilised power capacity led to the loss of an estimated N1.455 billion on the February 13 alone, according to data from the Nigeria Electricity Statistics Industry (NESI). This, however, translates to revenue loss of N10.185 billion in one week.

The power plants whose capacity were unutilised include the Omotosho Gas Turbine (GT1) with 120mw; Ihovbor GT1 and 2, 225mw; Alaoji NIPP GT1, 2 and 4, 360mw; and Olorunsogo Gas GT1, 3, 5 and 7, 152mw. Others are the Olorunsogo National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) GT2 and 3, 240mw; Omotosho Gas GT3, 5, 7 and 8, 152mw; Afam VI GT11-13 and ST10, 650mw and Geregu NIPP GT23 with 145mw.Nigeria power challenge had seen some manufacturing companies relocating to neighbouring countries like Ghana and Togo.Besides, Alaoji, Odukpani and Ihovbor NIPP power stations recorded zero capacity during the week due to gas, frequency or transmission constraints.

For instance, Alaoji National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) with installed capacity of 375mw GAS Turbine (GT) 1, 2 and 4 tripped on the same day due to low gas pressure, while GT3 was shut down due to generator air inlet filter trouble.Also, the 360mw capacity Odukpani NIPP’s GT1 and 3 tripped due to high air inlet differential pressure. While GT2, 4 and 5 were out due to loss of auxiliary supply at Ikot-Ekpene.Ihovbor NIPP’s GT1 and 2 were out due to gas constraint, while GT3 was out due to gas inlet valve problem. GT4 was also out due to lack of maintenance.Power generation projects like Aes, Asco, Azura and Sapele (Steam) that would have added significantly to electricity generation in the country are yet to completed.

Despite the fact that power generating companies (Gencos) produce less than the needed output in the country, the distribution companies (Discos) have continued to reject load thereby leaving the consumers in constant outages.A good example is the weekly electricity allocation log that showed that the Discos refused to take up and distribute 22,277.53mw of power produced by the Gencos.

Giving reasons for the load rejection by Discos, the Executive Secretary, Research and Advocacy of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), Sunday Oduntan, attributed it to transmission constraints and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN’s) resolve to transmit electricity to areas where such quantum were not required.“I want to confirm that it is true that Discos sometimes reject load, but not all the time and I will tell you the kind of load that we reject.”

He said that the Discos have a right to decide the area where they require electricity for its consumers, adding that the TCN has not been able to deliver energy where it would be required.“The issue of load rejection is not a new thing. I have the right to tell you where I want my product delivered.”“The truth of the matter is that TCN has not been able to properly transmit the generated power to the various distribution companies. If my customers are in Mushin, you cannot take the power to Victoria Island.

“How do you expect us to distribute such power? No matter how TCN wants to play it to colour, the reality of transmission shortcomings, transmission remains the weakest link in the power value chain,” he said.Executive Secretary of the Association of Power Generation Companies (APGC), Joy Ogaji, explained that even though Gencos have a power generation capacity of 12,500 mw per day with expansion capacity of doubling it, the TCN and Discos have ill-equipped infrastructure to evacuate and distribute the generated power.

According to her, TCN was not well equipped to evacuate generated power just as the Discos are incapable of distributing the small power wheeled to them.“TCN as you know is the weakest link in the power sector. We have capacity of 12,500mw and expansion capacity that can double that. That means if we have a good grid network that can take the power, we can increase it to 24,000 mw.

“But how many megawatts can TCN take, maximum of 5,000. The Discos cannot even take up to 5,000mw. So, the rest, how do we send it to you people and the industries? Is it through buckets? We cannot bottle it and sell on the shelves.”Meanwhile, outrageous estimated bills, high tariff and refusal of the Discos to provide prepaid meters to consumers have remained a major challenge to power supply in the country.Residents of Apapa Road in Lagos staged a protest two weeks ago to the Head Office of Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) over non-provision of prepaid meters and outrageous estimated bills.

Leader of the group, Dokubo Ndeomia, alleged that the electricity company had cut off their electricity cables and put the whole area in darkness.Also, the Dopemu Community Development Association (DCDA), protested in January against estimated bills.Its Secretary, Seyi Lasisi, said the community had waited endlessly since 2011 when they said the IEDC promised to install their prepaid meters, but long after the device was installed in Ikeja, the company abandoned the area and continued with estimated bills.

“What we are saying is either the Disco installs prepaid meters to our prospective houses or stop the outrageous estimated bills,” he said.Responding to the issue, Head, Corporate Communications, Ikeja Electric, Felix Ofulue, said the company was still going ahead with its metering scheme to ensure the provision of prepaid meters to all its customers.His words: “There is so much noise that we are not metering, but we are still providing prepaid meters to customers. It may not be at the pace the customers want, but we are metering,” he said.

Also speaking on Federal Government’s efforts to ensure regular power supply in the country, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, insisted that the nation’s Gencos have been able to produce 7,000mw.He said the transmission company was able to transport all power generated and was working on the expansion of its capacity on a daily basis, adding: “The distribution companies have also increased their load taking capacity to 5,0000mw.”

However, this leaves a gap of 2,000mw of what you manufacturers will call unsold inventory.“This is in the face of more power plants that will come to operation in 2018 as promised by President Muhammadu Buhari, in his New Year Day address, such as Azura, 459mw; Afam III, 240mw and Kaduna, 215mw, among others.”

Consumers Demand Prepaid Meters, Better Services
By Tobi Awodipe and Kelechi Okoye

FROM the Lagos Island to the Mainland, it has been tales of anger, sorrow and regrets for electricity consumers under the IEDC, EKEDC and the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), which operates in some parts of Lagos.Most consumers are confused about the constant deterioration of power, crazy bills, constant use of generators in the face of constant power failure.While some have long given up on public power supply, most are being held to ransom by the power distribution companies.

Morayo Ovie, a resident of Ire-Akari Estate in Isolo, Lagos, is so bitter that she did not want to discuss the country’s power situation anymore, as it had become an exercise in futility.“When I moved here some years ago, the power situation wasn’t too fantastic but it was manageable at least, we used to get 10-12 hours of light daily. All of a sudden, this reduced to about eight hours and before long, when we see power, we see it.

“We rely on generators for everything, from pumping water to ironing clothes and even just to light the neighbourhood. The worst part of the situation is that the bill was jacked up to about N140, 000 monthly from around N40, 000 that we used to pay. “When we saw the bill of our compound, we were all shocked and called the marketer of the area to ask if she had started a factory in our house without our knowledge. She told us she ‘read’ the meter and that was our correct bill.”

Waving several copies of letters and petitions her compound and other aggrieved residents of the street wrote severally to the Disco, she added that instead of reconsidering the situation, they decided to punish them further by taking light for almost a week. Ovie said after that incidence, they resolved not to pursue the matter again before they take away the street’s transformer out of anger.Benson Adedayo, a resident of Surulere in Lagos, who is under EKEDC, lamented that the power situation was forcing him out of business. Adebayo, who deals in frozen foods, lamented that he spends both capital and profit to power his generator so his goods do not go bad.

The tale is no different in Ikorodu, which is under the IEDC. A resident of the area, Chizoba Emeka, said she and her husband have resolved to stop paying bills untill the power situation improves and they get a prepaid meter. Despite the fact that according to the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC), consumers have certain rights including the one that states: “It is not the responsibility of electricity customers or community to buy, replace or repair electricity transformers, poles and related equipment for the supply of electricity.”

But by and large, this does not ring true for residents of Ita-Oluwo in Ikorodu, a suburb of Lagos.Residents of the community told The Guardian that they have been responsible for almost everything from getting transformers to poles and wires, adding that they even have to beg the officials severally to help fix them up.“It is not free either, as we have to tip them whenever they come around like that.”Even after telling him of the several rights he has as a consumer and the fact that he could sue the company, the official laughed and said their way was better.

“When we went to their office to complain about the poor power situation in the area, they were using a generator. Are those the kind of people you should be talking to about rights?”Also, a manager with the EKEDC, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that the number one issue was the privatisation of the power sector.

“The privatisation was fraudulent. The companies were given to the family and friends of those in government then and were sold far below their worth. Again, when you talk of privatisation, you don’t just privatise an electricity company. You privatise generation, distribution and transmission. In this case, only distribution was privatised, while generation and transmission is still in government’s hands.

“Before you sell or privatise a public property, you have to ensure that the people you are giving it to have the technical know-how and the financial strength to handle it. How can distribution companies that are finding it difficult to supply meters that are not expensive to consumers, buy equipment that run into millions of dollars for power transmission?”

“Power generation has improved tremendously since we started using gas but the problem is with the transmission capacity. The equipment used to evacuate what is generated is obsolete and they have to be replaced with new and modern ones.“The owners of the companies always set targets for marketers and so to realise their target, they use estimated billings. The privatisation of the power sector means that the poor masses cannot use electricity. To fill the gap, we rob Peter to pay Paul. We give huge bills to those whom we perceive can afford it and the smaller bills go to those we perceive to be poor.

“Although the government is doing its best to ensure that transmission is improved, more needs to be done. There should be enough transparency and truthfulness on the part of the government.” A trader, Ujunwa Nwachukwu who also resides in Ebute-Metta, but uses a prepaid meter said that they get four hours of electricity during the day and four hours during the night.

“I spend less on recharges because I only pay for what I use. I have one display freezer, one deep freezer, one air conditioner, five fans and eight bulbs, yet, I don’t spend up to N4, 000 for bills in a month”.Speaking, Iyanuoluwa Isaac Oguntade a resident of Abule-Egba, said they used to have light only hours hours a day, sometimes more, most times less with an estimated bill of about N7, 000 monthly. But recently, they started having a supply of 12 hours a day.

At his office in Ogba, he said they do get light at all during the day and so he had to figure out a way to generate power for his business, adding that there was a time he started a new line of business but he had to quit because it was heavily dependent on power.Kendra Okorie, a resident of Rumuigbo, Port Harcourt, Rivers State told The Guardian that they only electricity for two hours and it is usually at nights. “If they want to be nice, they give us light for five hours, but I can count the number of times that happened.”They use a postpaid meter and are billed N10, 000 monthly.

Ondo Residents Accuse BEDC Of Incompetence
From Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure 

ERRATIC power supply has become the norm that over three million people are subjected to in the 18 local council areas of Ondo State, while the four councils in the coastal area of the state are used to near permanent darkness.Curiously, this is having adverse implications on the socio-economic activities of the people, who expressed their dissatisfaction, frustration and disappointment, especially now that there is acute scarcity of petrol since November last year. 

Sadly, the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), which covers Ondo, Ekiti, Delta and Edo states, does not seem to bother about the poor supply in Ondo State. The company has allegedly disconnected several communities from the national grid out of sheer insensitivity the plight of the people. Presently in Akure, the state capital, almost 90 per cent of the petrol stations are shut down, even those owned by the major marketers; and it is only by sheer luck one could run into a station that sells fuel at N180 per litre. 

Consequently, the prices of commodities have increased, transport fares have been increased and most artisans, who depend entirely on power, could no longer go to work due to scarcity of petrol and epileptic power supply. A resident of Akure, Kayode Ajimuda, lamented that his area around Oke-Ijebu, has not got electricity for the past three weeks, revealing that some other places have been shut out of power supply for months. 

“This lack of fuel and electricity in the country is giving everyone a lot of headache and pushing the people through some psychological and mental torture. Petrol and electricity are the major drivers of the economy, but see how our government is handling the challenge!According to Oluwafemi Odofin, who hails from Okitipupa in Ondo State: “It is as if nature actually wants to deal with the people of the state. The high level of heat experienced by everyone is terrible and indescribable.

Odofin criticised the poor policy embarked upon by the power distribution company, which gave them the audacity to disconnect a whole of community just because some people owed the company.

This, he said, was pure injustice to those that are honest and committed to their civic responsibilities by paying their bills as and when due. “If there is no electricity, though the many reforms in the sector have taken us some miles backward; like the Never Expect Power Always (NEPA) and Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) quagmires in the past, there shouldn’t be problem with the alternative we have to forge a life for ourselves.”

Referring to the communities in the state where BEDC public utilities and property are decaying due to massive disconnection, Odofin, said: “Electricity in Nigeria is gradually becoming like eclipse of the sun, very soon children will start going on excursion to BEDC offices just to see light.”However, one of the BEDC staff, who pleaded anonymity said the constant power outage experienced in some areas, particularly Oloko, FUTA, Orita-Obele axis, was due to some ongoing maintenance works in the sub-power station. This, according to him, was due to the major repair work on the impacts of the 4TI 150MVA transformer, which got burnt on March 7, 2014 to further stabilise the electricity supply in the state. 

Darkness Pervades Southern Calabar, Traders Close Shops
From Tina Todo, Calabar

RESIDENTS of Calabar, especially the southern part have been faced with complete blackout over several months as business owners suffer huge losses.This resulted from the constant power failure coupled with fuel scarcity in the country.Consequently, some shop owners, who could not afford to run their business with the high cost of fuel of running their generators, have locked up their shops for months.

In the absence of power supply, some residents have also lamented that the recent hot weather has forced some persons to sleeping outside till dawn, while those who could not risks sleeping outside sleep indoors, which results to rashes and boils all over their bodies.Manager of a popular hotel in Calabar Municipal, Toro Nelson, lamented that the epileptic power supply and the recent hike in fuel price have crippled hotel business in Calabar and its environs.He said: “It has not been easy. Fuel scarcity coupled with unstable power supply is crippling our businesses here. Sometimes when you have one or two customers, you still have to run the generator till daybreak and what we are charging cannot cover what we are spending to power the generator for a night.

“And sometimes we go extra mile to look for fuel because we cannot keep our customers in the dark.” An Artisan, Lawrence Ifeanyichukwu, who resides in Ikot Ishie, said: “We hardly have light. It comes on and off. It is even better we forget about fuel because it is getting worst on a daily basis. You cannot have power supply for one hour without interruption. Sometimes we stay for days without a blink. At the same time, you cannot get fuel to run your generator. Even if you get it, it is on the very high side, so tell me how someone can cope with this kind of situation in this country.

“Since the beginning of this administration, we have been suffering fuel scarcity. Now that we are buying fuel for N200 or N250, most of us who run the business hardly have customers coming around because you need to have plenty of food to eat before you think of buying fuel to run your generator.On danger to health, he said: “Rain has fallen a couple of times but that does not stop the hot weather. My children are having heat rashes all over their bodies. They don’t sleep at night,” he lamented.

Lamenting bitterly, another Calabar resident who simply identified herself as Grace, said her area has been forgotten for a long time.“Sometime last year we were without light for several months and we tried everything, we went to PHEDC about three times to do verbal complaint besides writing and the only thing that was left for us was to carry placard.

“Presently, we do not have light. We have stayed for seven months without light and we were given a bill of N27, 000. How do you expect us to pay a bill for what we did not consume?“This is not government, it is a private company but you see them treating their customers as if it is still a government- owned company. The situation has been really terrible and sometimes we feel they deliberately take the light so that they can come back and steal from the transformers.

“Bayside area of Calabar south and other adjoining streets are all facing the same thing. In the area where somebody was electrocuted over four months ago, the PHECD just left the people in total darkness, it is as bad as that.  I heard it is the same in other parts of the state but the issue of Calabar south is totally out of hand. We have been abandoned for too long.

“It’s been terrible and very difficult to cope with the hot weather. If you go to the filling station and you are lucky to buy fuel at N250, it is not every day you will be able to put on the generator because you can’t afford fuel continuously at that price. The heat is getting worst.

“You have rashes all over your body, the children cannot sleep at night and you feel like fainting because of the heat. And to cap it all up, there is no water to bath because you can’t pump water without fuel. “We now buy 20 litres of water for N50. It is so difficult that you find yourself bathing once a day in spite of the heat,” she lamented.

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