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Tariff hike: NERC, DisCos and the Rest of us

By Inyali Peter

Since the calamitous tariff hike, some areas that were enjoying considerable power supply within the franchise area of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AED), have experienced an unprecedented dip in supply. For instance, River Park Estate, Airport Road, was enjoying considerable hours of power supply – 5-9 hours daily across all the clusters. According to recent checks, the estate is in Band B, which is to enjoy power supply for at least 16-19 hours daily.

Even when the DisCos friendly tariff had not been set, the 16-19 hours daily supply requirement was never met, but light usually fluctuates between 5-9 hours most days. But with the new regime, supply has dropped so terribly for some clusters that two-three hours of supply in a day is a relief.

Particularly, clusters 4 & 5 in River Park are the most affected by this new regime. The situation is a bit better in Clusters 1, 2 & 3, but still worse than it was before the hike.

Residents of the estate don’t know whether clusters 1, 2 & 3 are in Band A since most Band A residents are saying that despite the promise of 20-hour supply in the new regime supply has not improved beyond 5-9 hours.

More so, the transmission value chain is always forced by NERC to pay humongous amounts of money for unintentional breaches of SLA to DisCos, but they (DisCos) who willingly entered into the agreements and are always the biggest beneficiaries have hardly met their own responsibility yet, are never held accountable to pay compensations to customers for their incessant breaches.

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Besides, it seems the discriminatory tariff regime has given DisCos room to abandon people in other Bands to concentrate where they’re seemingly making more money. This, perhaps, may be the reason why in one estate, some clusters are having light while others are not.

NERC told Nigerians that all customers in Band A will enjoy supply for 20 hours daily while B, for 16 hours. But the reality on the ground as of now is that the areas enjoying light in the new regime are those in commercial areas or mega-churches. DisCos have completely shifted focus to supplying them power because they believe they’ll make more money. Band A people in residential areas have not noticed any improvement, and it’s worse in other Bands.

But would you blame the DisCos for taking advantage of a policy that favours them to make more money? No! They’re in business to make money, and NERC is helping them actualise their aim with this new regime.

With the way things are going, it’s increasingly becoming difficult to argue against the insinuations that NERC is working for DisCos. If the commission is not, by now, the reasonable thing to do now would have been to apply some breaks to this ill-fated and ill-timed policy and allow for wider consultation to come up with a more realistic tariff regime that’ll protect not just the DisCos but, the customers.

Since the partial privatisation of the sector, DisCos have exploited Nigerians with terrible effectiveness. The NERC has given them the enablement to do more with the discriminatory tariff regime.

However, it’s not too late to correct the wrong. Therefore, I call on NERC to investigate why the power supply has dropped in most areas like River Park that, until now, were enjoying a considerable power supply.

Also, the new policy should be reviewed where a minimally uniform hike should be considered to avoid empowering DisCos to channel all efforts to commercial areas for more money while the majority of Nigerians continue to languish in darkness as it is now.

These steps would rebuild the confidence of Nigerians against the backdrop that the regulatory commission and Discos are aligning to shortchange the rest of us.

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