Electricity Power Reform Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 passed by the House of Representatives last Tuesday prohibiting and criminalising estimated billing has proposed a one-year jail term and a fine of N1m for defaulters.
The proposed law, which will be transmitted to the Senate for concurrence, and onward transmission to the President for his assent, also compels all electricity distribution companies to give prepaid meters to applicants within 30 days. If assented to, the law will bar a Disco from disconnecting a consumer after the 30-day period within which a meter should be installed.
Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, majority leader of the House, sponsored the bill in protest against the ‘crazy’ billing of consumers by the Discos. The lawmaker had stated that estimated billing could only be used in situations where a consumer’s meter could not be accessed by the service provider. He said Discos had however deemed estimated billing to be normal. He said, “Any regulation that allows estimation of bills when the actual consumption can be ascertained is against natural justice and equity and should not stand.”
The majority leader had also said the bill, when passed into law, would stop estimated billing. “The bill will ensure that prepaid meters are installed in all houses, so long as the customers apply for the meters,” he said.
The House passed the bill upon the adoption of the committee report on the proposed law, following a public hearing held on June 5, 2018. Gbajabiamila had, at the public hearing stated that there was nowhere in the world where electricity customers were billed arbitrarily. Sections 68 to 72 are some of the amendments to the Principal Act. Section 68 states, “(1) Estimated billing methodology is hereby prohibited in Nigeria.
“(2) Every electricity consumer in Nigeria shall apply to the Electricity Distribution Company carrying out business within his (or her) jurisdiction for a prepaid meter and such consumer shall pay the regulated fee for prepaid meter to be installed in his (or her) premises and the Electricity Distribution Company shall within 30 days or receiving the application and payment install the prepaid meter applied for in the premises of the consumer.
“(3) Customers who elect to buy their prepaid meters through credit advancement metering implementation must state in their applications and such customers must be metered within 30 days of the receipt of their applications.
“(4) All electricity charges or billings to the premises of every consumer shall be based strictly on prepaid metering and no consumer shall be made to pay any bill without a prepaid meter first being installed at the premises of the consumer.”
In the new Section 69, the proposed law stipulates that the Disco serving the consumer, upon connection, must inform the customer in writing on the nature of the meter installed, tariff methodology and all other services available to the customer.
The new Section 70 states that in giving effect to the provisions of the Act, the National Electricity Regulatory Commission, as the regulatory body, must ensure that all licensed Discos comply with the provisions of this Act.