In the kitchen, I looked at the spoiled mass of Sallah meat I just removed from the fridge. My heart, in its greed and disappointment, was unwilling to let me throw it out. My mind, on the other hand, warned me, dared me even: ”eat it and die!”
I threw it out two days later.
But it could have been worse. My father wanted me to bring my wife’s Sallah meat with me to Minna. ”If you give it to me, ” I protested, ”I’m likely to finish it before she comes back from her journey.”
I’m happy I didn’t bring her own with me; because the situation of electricity in my area at Shehu Ahmadu Estate Bosso Estate Minna in Niger State is beyond hopeless.
We’ve been reduced to electricity paupers – ranking at the level of extreme electricity poverty line.
A couple of days ago, I return from travel to meet the food in the freezer going bad because the power was released at what Nigerians call ”half-current.” The light burns weakly like that for three days – and not enough to give teeth to appliances, such as the freezers. When the officials of the AEDC were called to fix the problem, they simply ignored us. By the time they came, my Sallah meat had gone bad.
We enjoy electricity for about six hours in 24 – given twice a day for three hours each. Most of us have prepaid meters. When one of our neighbours without prepaid meters refused to pay his bill, AEDC technicians in a fit of rage, disconnected half of the estate – including my house which has a prepaid meter. That outage also took three days.
When I called AEDC’s PRO in Minna, Mal Adamu, I asked him to tell me if there is any regulation that allows them to subject 20 houses to darkness due to the sin of one customer.
When I went to the shopkeeper yesterday, I couldn’t buy the 100% fruit juice that I like because when I opened his freezer, the packs looked pitiful, almost leaking out the fluid.
”What happened?” I asked him.
”Electricity here is not stable, Alhaji,” he said as if he was going to cry.
If attention is not paid to this problem and promptly fixed, the impact on the economic, educational, environment and the general quality of life is going to be disastrous. Our children will soon go back to school. Without electricity at night, they can’t do their homework. There wouldn’t be water for cleaning and sanitation because residents need electricity to pump water to tanks. And as shown above, the small businesses are already suffering.
There is one main factor that is at the root of this situation: the electricity distributors – called discos- get paid whether they provide the electricity or not. They get paid whether their customer service is stellar or whether they treat their customers shabbily as if they are doing them a favour. How do they get paid without providing the service? Estimated billing. Those without meters are given estimated billing. And the estimation is usually beyond what a user would have ordinarily consumed with a meter. That is how discos make money for doing nothing.
So if estimated billing is the main problem, will the elimination of it provide the solution we all seek?
Yes. Eliminate estimated billing and the distribution companies will do whatever they can to meter their customers. If the meters are all prepaid, it means the discos wouldn’t be paid without providing electricity.
Just like the mobile phone companies are doing whatever they can to provide stable services, keep the customers they have and even recruiting new ones. Because if there’s no service, they will get nothing from me.
But the discos couldn’t be bothered about all this. What’s puzzling is the fact that for many years, they are unable to meter their customers.
Of course, some of the discos are not that bad. But some, like Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) which unfortunately services my state (and Nasarawa, Kogi and Kwara) is worse than worst. It has no empathy whatsoever for its customers. We remain with the company because we’ve no choice. We can’t port to another disco the way we do with our phone lines.
This solution of metering everyone will work because we’ve already seen the results. You will notice in all areas where all customers are metered, the electricity they enjoy has improved tremendously. So we already have a solution.
But we need NERC (National Electricity Regulation Commission ) to implement it.
We know that NERC has beautiful policies, including the one that directs discos to only charge unmetered customers based on the estimate of what the metered customers consumed per month.
However, this regulation is only observed by the discos in the breach.