-We Pay N3B Monthly For Oower- KEDCO
Gabriel Idibia, Kaduna
Apprehension has continued to undermine peace in parts of Kaduna state following mass disconnection of electricity bill payment defaults.
On Thursday, protesters occupied the major streets and roads in Jaruwa Community, a new settlement along Yekowa new road, over electricity problems.
The develoment coincided with the mass disconnection of electricity consumers by KEDCO in which several homes were affected.
But the distribution company insisted it pays almost N3billion monthly to purchase power for distribution to consumers in Kaduna zone.
About 5000 households, have already been thrown into darkness for inability to afford the current hiked electricity bills in state, which many described as exploitative.
Findings show that Mafuta, U/Boro and Sabon Tasha communities in Southern Kaduna alone, host about 150-200 houses of those affected in the mass disconnection exercise.
Most community leaders contacted for enquiry in the area declined comments.
However, the few who confirmed that they had been disconnected under anonymity lamented high level of exploitation due to arbitrary increment in the electricity bills, particularly those without prepaid meters.
“Some residents are billed for between N10,000 andN20,000 for monthly consumption. We have been experiencing this steady increment since February when the tariff hike was announced. We complained, but nothing changed; instead it went up. Each rooms now pays between N2000 and N4000 from the previous N200 to N500″, said a community leader.
While majority of leaders expressed regret for what the change they sought had brought them, they also called for urgent government intervention to reduce more hardship and curb social vices.
Contacted, Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company, KEDCO, said it believed that its billing operations are in line with the methodology approved by regulatory body.
It said there is “nothing anybody can do about it”.
Head of Communications, KEDCO, Abdulazeez Abdullahi, who spoke to journalists on the allegations said as a private business, the distribution company paid exorbitantly for energy from generation company.
“You know privatization had taken place and distribution and generation company are no longer owned by government.
“It means that for us in the distribution arms of the chain, we have to buy energy from a transmission company and sell it to public or communities, and we don’t have any respite for anybody than to pay for the energy before you even connect it”, he said.
Abdullahi also said the new reality is that anybody who uses energy must to pay for it, “and we have been the authorized by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), to legitimately disconnect those who could not paid, and that is why those communities were disconnected”.
“We’ have to pay about early N3 billion every month to buy power that we distribute to consumers in states under our coverage”, he stressed.
According to him, with the removal of fix charge, which was a component of the bill, constant increase reflects monthly consumption. He said no house consumes the same amount of energy monthly.
“…there is a methodology approved for every outfit to estimate people who does not have meters, and we are abiding strictly by it to arrive at bills being shared to customers”, Abdullahi said.
On accusation leveled against KEDCO of increasing single rooms or house bill by 50 percent within a month, Abdullahi said, “KEDCO has a billing team or section that does that; if that is what they arrived at, I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the bills”.
Whether the number of residents disconnected from electricity supply doubled due to over billing and lack of affordability, he said “KEDCO has no data to verify such information”, but called for change of attitude. He said the company is no longer a public service.
“I don’t have the data of those disconnected in Kaduna state, it was a mass disconnection”, Abdullai said.
“KEDCO does not get single kobo from federal government as subvention. Even military, Police barracks, units and formations rendering public services, have been disconnected for not paying. That is to show that it is no longer public services.
On vexed issues of target and estimated bills, he said “there a methodology approved which we are following, and I believe my colleagues who are doing the billing abide by it because there is heavy sanction to face if you derail”.
On whether effort is being made to meter all residents, the KEDCO image maker said “there is no date I can tell you that every resident in Kaduna will get pre-paid meter. We have meter, but they are for deployment plan and we are going to do it in phases because they are not enough.
“In fact, is not even possible because by the regulation or agreement we signed when taking over the company, was to meter only 100,000 houses par year, and that would be done for five years and for 500,000 houses, which is not equal to the numbers of houses in Kaduna”, he stressed.