Joint Action Group (JAG) on Power, Aba, Abia, has alleged Aba Power Limited’s (APL) also known as Geometric deliberate plan to continue depriving customers of power supply while forcing them to pay highly inflated estimated bills.
The Secretary of JAG, a body that represents many residents and business stakeholders, Chief Ike Opigwe disclosed this during a Press Conference with members of the Aba Federated Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists.
AbaCityBlog reports that when the complaints from residents got out of hand, Aba NUJ contacted Opigwe who revealed that information from Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) Plc showed that APL is under-buying and under-supplying power to increase their profit.
Residents are saying that APL hardly supply power to their homes and when they want to do, they will supply in a few hours during the midnights, but will never hesitate to bring bogus estimated bills that are only suitable for factories.
Explaining, Opigwe said the current epileptic power supply in Aba is deliberate, as APL has no tangible reasons for the epileptic supply except their internal company decision to deal with the people as they wished.
“There’s an epileptic power supply in Aba right now and cast your mind back to December 2022, you will recall that there was a serious supply of energy everywhere.
“From the middle of January, we started having all these load-shedding. Now, what really happened? Electricity sector has four segments and value chains.
“We have Generation Company of Nigeria (GenCos) that generate the electricity we use; We have the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and also the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) Plc.
“NBET is the manager and administrator of the electricity pool (‘The Pool’) in the Nigerian electricity supply industry (NESI).
“NBET use taxpayers’ money, buy energy and sometimes give it to these DisCos on credit for them to interface with you and collect the money based on the NERC regulations. We equally have the Distribution Companies (DisCos) which are currently 12 in number today.
“You as a Nigerian and a customer has 40% equity in the distribution aspect because government use taxpayers’ money to buy shares in NBET.
“That’s why electricity is called Social Commodity. It’s not the DisCos property entirely.
“Records show that APL has more than 100kwh available for them to buy and share for Aba customers but they deliberately decided to give epileptic supply, to pay less to the NBET and get higher money through estimated billing.”, he said.
Adding his voice, Mr Imo Ojukwu, a member of JAG said they interfaced with APL management on the reduced 100MWto 25MW supply to Aba, but they said they had no money to buy energy and that Aba people were owing them billions of Naira.
Opigwe further said “By December 2022, APLE/Geometric based on the record from the market operators released 100MW of electricity to Aba customers.
“That was why Aba enjoyed electricity between December 2022 and early January 2023. But by the middle of January, they said no, they now released only 25MW to the entire Aba.
“This is the reason why we now have the epileptic supply you’re all seeing today. This is happening because Aba people do not know what’s happening.
“This is why many people are complaining that they now give them light only at midnight when they’re asleep.
“They believe nobody knows about it and they can do whatever they want and still collect higher money than they got when they released 100kwhs to customers through their attack dogs they call marketers.
“I told APL management when we engaged them that we know and have the available records of what happened between December 2022 and today.
“Records show that they have more than 100MW available for them to buy and share for Aba customers but they deliberately decided to give epileptic supply, to pay less to the NBET and get higher money through estimated billing.”
Also adding his voice to the epileptic supply of electricity, Imo Ojukwu, a member of JAG said that they have interfaced with APL management of the reason they reduced 100MW to 25MW supply to Aba, but the management told them that they had no money to buy energy. That Aba people are owing them a whole lot of Money.
Opigwe further explained that the four days shutdown APL did in Aba is a crime against the customers because it is completely an act of wrongful disconnection which the company can be made to face the law.
He said the regulation made it clear under Customers’ Rights and Obligation that meters (prepaid) must be first installed before an account will be opened.
Opigwe stressed that it is the duty of the DisCos to distribute prepaid meters to their customers because the meters are their properties not that of the customers.
“They will just send their Marketers into Aba streets to go and extort people. The regulation is clear and they must follow it here in Aba.”
Opigwe further explained that there are two ways of getting prepaid meters.
“When the DisCos said they don’t have money to meter people some time ago, the Federal Government said okay and did what was called the National Mass Metering Programme.
“They released one million prepaid meters to these DisCos and made it clear that releasing that doesn’t take away the duties of the DisCos because they were only helping.
“They were asked to share the prepaid meters but reports from Newspapers proved that these DisCos didn’t issue the meter as they were told.
“Many collected money from the electricity consumers for the meters. That programme has finished and NERC has been telling APL to meter people yet they are adamant.
“Management of APL told us all that they will give us prepaid meters and up till now nothing has been done.
“NERC made it clear that customers with faulty meters should not get estimate bills and the DisCos will lie to customers with such problems that their meters are out of their systems which system are they talking about. These things are done because customers don’t know the rules.”
Aba residents who spoke to Exact News have said that what the DisCo, including the former EEDC and now APL, is doing cannot be possible if the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has not compromised their standards in punishing them.
Sampson Okoro, a resident said that the manner NERC Forum delay hearings on DisCo misbehaviour and their inability to enforce their own regulations has given the APLE the impetus to do more harm to Aba residents.
“Some of us who have been properly educated by JAG are using the NERC Forum, but we’ve seen their lacklustre actions so, the court of law will be a regular home for APL henceforth. They’ll be visiting the courts steadily henceforth because we have had enough.
“Those who are not properly educated may resort to beating them up as a solution to fighting their excesses but for me and my area, we’ll keep using the peaceful and lawful means JAG has instructed to apply and it’s working smoothly.
“But all the sufferings of Aba people are aided by NERC and NERC Forum because they’re part of what’s happening. The DisCo here in Aba is not afraid of NERC because they pay them.
“I’ve noticed how NERC officials in one of their meetings here in Aba were begging customers here in Aba not to go to court because they know that the court will always give customers sound judgement,” Okoro said.
The residents equally accused security agencies in Abia State of forming a dubious partnership with the DisCo who now carry their men and personnel around areas where they want to effect their usual extortionist activities knowing fully well that they will be resisted.
According to Opigwe, “Many residents now have problems with NERC. Maybe they now see the court as their final destination. There’s a rule explaining that NERC Resolution Forum has about eight weeks to discharge the matter and you see NERC Forum hold the matter for eternity and the customer will be suffering.
“Once someone activates the Resolution at NERC Forum, no DisCo should disconnect you, but here in Aba someone will have a case at NERC Forum and the DisCo will go and do otherwise and NERC Forum will do nothing, so I don’t blame the people fully for not trusting NERC Forum so much, but we as residents must continue to do our own whether through NERC Forum or the court.
“The way APL is telling people who have cases with them to go to NERC Forum today shows that there’s something wrong between them and the NERC Forum. Because it’s difficult for an offender to ask you to go to a place he knows you’ll get justice against him.
“They have a maximum of eight weeks to do their job but they hold cases at their comfort. I think the problem is coming from the standard complaint measures that made it clear that the DisCos pay for the office of the NERC Forum all over the country.
“It’s written in NERC’s customers’ complaint handling standard and procedures and he who pays the piper dictates the tune. So, those who can go to court should quickly follow that means which is the ultimate channel to handle the cases.
“These DisCos are pushing customers to the wall. It’ll not be fair if nothing is done now to checkmate this. Let them check their conscience. Let those who follow them as security agencies to do this terrible revenue drive to please, cross-check themselves if what they’re doing is right.”
The Marketing Manager, APL, Mr Jude Efidi said that he had not seen any electricity regulation that prescribes 3 Months and 10 days notice conveyed in writing to customers before disconnection.
He said that their power suppliers supply them and then demand money at the end of the month from them hence the need to.
“Yes, we pay NERC; If we pay these organization that we buy bulk electricity from and also pay NERC, then how come that somebody is coming from the moon to tell us that we must allow for 3 months before disconnecting any customer”, he said.
Efidi said since the take over of the Aba Ring-Fenced Area consisting 9 local government areas in Abia by APL, they have been issuing prepaid meters.
He said that currently, APL is about entering the Mass Metering Phase of their prepaid meter issuance.
He, however said that Aba Customers were owing APL billions of Naira which they needed to use to fund their metering project which is cost-intensive.
“We have given them supply on credit and yet they are not paying us and everybody is crying, give us meter, give us meter. Is it not funds that we will use to acquire meters”, he asked.
On the shortage of supply that APL is giving to Aba residents, Efidi said that it is not APL that applied for 25 megawatts.
“It is the suppliers that are cutting our supply just the way we go ahead to disconnect customers or we do load-shedding sometimes.
“We had no choice. Of course it will impact our service to customers”, he said.
The APL Marketing Manager said that APL has already started planning to use a Feeder called Ehi Feeder inside Ehi Road Market.
“We are metering everywhere there. We started by putting meters on the transformers. That is the first step. We have certified the once metered and after that we will give everyone meter and then pump power”, he said.