Babatunde Fashola, minister of power, works and housing gives reason under which he will resist paying electricity bill
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Feb 27, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT |
BABATUNDE Fashola, minister of power, works and housing, has taken sides with electricity consumers who are resisting to pay arbitrarily charges by distribution companies. Fashola said he will, like other consumers, be more resistant to payment of electricity bill if there is no power supply. He stated this at the 12th Monthly Power Sector and Stakeholders’ meeting in Ibadan, hosted by Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company.
His statement came at a time staff of power firms who go to disconnect consumers who have not paid their bills because of crazy electricity while power supply is not epileptic are attacked. The most recent attack was on Ikeja Electric field workers at Akowonjo, Lagos, where an aggrieved woman allegedly stabbed a staff of Disco, who was discharging his official duties.
The spate of attacks on staff of power firm rises as power generation in the country worsened in recent weeks after hitting the 4,000 megawatts mark in December last year, with many consumers without prepaid meters complaining about over-estimated bills despite the dip in supply.
The minister explained that the situation was caused by sabotage of gas assets and pipelines which decommissioned power plants and their ability to provide up to 3,000 megawatts of power. “The MW to 3,800MW that we have been able to keep on the grid over the last few months will be assisted greatly if we can have the gas pipelines back and add 3,000MW to it. That means we will be able to deliver well over 6,000MW if the gas pipelines are safe.”
Fashola said the sabotage had also created debt and liquidity problems, shortfall in power expectation, and in revenue recovery by power distribution firms. “Consumers are more resistant to payment when they don’t have electricity, and I will be, too, and you will be too,” he told the power investors and other stakeholders at the meeting, adding, “We see that they (consumers) pay more when the power is more stable. Of course, there are issues also at the retail end – metering, estimated bills.”
Noting that all stakeholders have different roles to play in solving the problems, the minister said, “You will see that government has begun to act. The vice president, representing the president, is going round those Niger Delta communities, engaging them more openly, more robustly.
“The idea is to bring them to the table to stop the vandalism while the issues that agitate them can be treated and resolved. I believe that if we are successful as we expect to be, we should be able to, sometimes, this year recover all the 3,000MW that has been lost to gas pipeline outages.”
Nevertheless, electricity distribution companies have decried the increasing spate of violent attacks on their staff. A statement signed by Felix Ofulue, head, corporate communications of the Ikeja Electric, expressed shock at the level of violence and antipathy towards staff of electricity companies. “It is quite disheartening that a customer will resort to such levels of violence under any circumstance to express her grievance without even considering the enormity of the action, which could have easily resulted in murder if the staff had died. This is appalling and totally unacceptable” he said.
According to Ofulue, on a frequent basis, the field workers were attacked by aggrieved customers on matters which are completely beyond the control of the Disco such as the worsening power situation in the country. He also pointed out the company has created several channels for aggrieved customers to present their complaints, but rather some chose to vent their anger on the workers, which is criminal.
“Some of the issues they are complaining about are beyond our control. For instance, there is poor power supply, which is as a result of certain known challenges that cuts across the value chain and we are the last arm of the chain. These challenges are beyond our control, so there is no point directing your anger at any of our staff because they are also customers of a network where they reside.”
He further explained that the aggression on the part of the customers was misdirected since the Disco can only distribute the allocation it gets from the national grid. He further cautioned that any customer who attacks any Ikeja Electirc staff will be made to face the law. “We are appealing to customers to exercise patience and restraint. We are also appealing to community leaders to sensitise their people towards this as anyone who attacks our staff will face the full wrath of the law.”
Ofulue noted that in spite of the legacy challenges, “A lot of initiatives are currently being put in place to ensure improvements in our service and they are already yielding results. All we ask is for customers to be patient and not take laws into their hands by destroying assets and attacking staff.”