Uneasy Calm Beclouds Kaduna Residents As KEDCO Mass Disconnect Houses … We pay N3b monthly for power
Apprehension has continued to undermine peace in corners and streets of Kaduna state, following serial multiple electricity problems confronting the state. By Wednesday, protesters occupied the major streets and roads in Janruwa community, a new settlement along Yakowa New Road, Kaduna, over electricity problems.
The trend coincided with the mass disconnections by Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO) in which hundreds of thousands of houses and compounds – mostly communal – were reportedly affected. But the distributing company insisted it’s paying almost N3 billion on monthly basis to purchase power it shared and distributed to consumers for in its Kaduna district and zone.
Accordingly, about 5,000 residents and their families, mostly poor, have already been allegedly thrown into perpetual darkness for inability to afford the current electricity bills in the state, which many ascribed to as being ‘exploitative.’
Findings, however, revealed that, Mahuta, U/Boro and Sabon Tasha communities in Southern Kaduna alone, are hosting about 150-200 houses of those affected in the mass disconnection exercise. Regrettably, most community leaders contacted for inquiry in these areas declined comments – for fear of victimization by the state.
However, a few that confirmed the allegations – under anonymity – lamented the high level of exploitation due to constant arbitrary increment in the electricity bills for residents, particularly those without prepaid meters.
“Some residents are billed for between N10,000 and N20,000 as monthly consumption. We have been experiencing this steady increment since February, when the tariff hike was announced. We complained, but nothing changed; instead it went up. Each room now pays between N2000 and N4000 from previous N200 to N500. What are we using for the light readily unavailable?” queried a leader.
While majority of leaders expressed regret for what the change mantra brought to bear on them, they called for urgent government’s intervention to reduce more hardship and curb social vices.
Contacted, Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO), whose most business units were filled to brim with consumer complaints for over-billing, believed that its billing operations are in line with the methodology approved by regulatory body, “and nothing anybody can do about it.”
Head of KEDCO communications, Abdulazeez Abdullahi, who spoke to journalists on the allegations, said as private ownership, the Distribution Company (DISCO), paid exorbitantly for energy from Generation Company. “You know, privatization has taken place and distribution and generation companies are no longer owned by government. It means that for us in the distribution arms of the chain, we have to buy this energy from Transmission Company and sell it to public or communities; and we don’t have any respite for anybody than to pay for the energy before you even connect it,” he said.
Abdulazeez also said the new reality is that anybody, who used power have to pay for it; “and we have been authorized by the Nigerian Regulatory Council (NRC) to ‘legitimately’ disconnect those, who could not pay; and that is why those communities were disconnected. We’ve to pay about nearly N3 billion every month to buy power that we distribute to consumers in states under our coverage,” he stressed.
According to him, with the removal of “fix charge,” which was the components of the bills, constant increase reflect monthly consumption, saying no house consumes the same amount of money on monthly bases. “And there is a methodology approved by any outfit or estimate for people, who do not have meters, and we are abiding strictly by it to arrive at bills being shared to customers.”
On accusations leveled against KEDCO of increasing single rooms or house bill by 50% within a month, he said, “Of course, yes, although there are billing teams or sections that does that, but if that is what they arrived at, I’ve no reason to doubt the sincerity of the bills.”
Whether the number of residents disconnected from electricity supply has doubled due to over-billing and lack off affordability, he said KEDCO has no data to verify such information, but called for change of attitude, saying the company is no longer a public service. “I don’t have the data of those disconnected in Kaduna state, it was mass disconnections.”
He stated that, “KEDCO don’t get single kobo from federal government as subvention. Even military, Police barracks, units and formations rendering public services have been disconnected for not paying, to show that it’s no longer public services.” On vexed issues of target and estimated bills, he said, “There is a methodology approved, which we are following, and I believe my colleagues, who are doing the billing, abide by it because there is heavy sanction to face if you derail.”
On whether any effort is being made to meter all residents, the KEDCO image maker said, “There is no date I can tell you that every resident in Kaduna will get pre-paid meter. We have meters, but it’s for deployment plan, and we are going to do it in phases because they are not enough.
“In fact, it’s not even possible because by the regulation or agreement we signed when taken over the company was to meter only 100,000 meters, 100,000 houses par year, and that would be done for 500,000 house, which is not equal to the numbers of houses in Kaduna,” he stressed.