Electricity consumers in the North-Central states of the federation have decried the “outrageous bills” they receive from power distribution companies, saying the billing system is “too harsh” on them.
Some of them, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Plateau, Benue, Niger, and Taraba states, said the situation was particularly “annoying” because there was no commensurate power supply to match the high bills.
“I hardly get four hours of power supply in three days, but I am always asked to cough out thousands of naira at the end of the month,” Mrs Mary Pam, a widow, who lives in Hwolshe, in Jos metropolis, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
She described the bills as “very crazy”, saying she had tried in vain to get officials of the Jos Electricity Distribution Company (JEDC) to check the trend.
“I live in a one-bedroom apartment; I have just one television set and a fridge.
“I use energy saving bulbs in my house, yet I am charged between N4000 to 5000 every month, even with the epileptic power supply,” she lamented.
She said that she had very often visited JEDC’s Rwang Pam office without luck.
“I have asked them to give me a prepaid meter so that I will pay for only what I consume, but the story is always the same,’’ she said.
Philemon Achi, a banker, who resides in Jenta-Adamu area of Jos, has a similar complaint:
“The issue of outrageous bills I get every month is saddening; clearly, I know that I don’t consume one tenth of the electricity I am charged for,” he told NAN in Jos.
He called on the management of JEDC to work out a strategy where those without meters would be moderately charged so as not to create doubt over the integrity of the power distribution firm.
Mr Eze Chuka, a resident of Bukuru Lowcost housing, said that the act of estimated billing was a “very wicked one”.
“Consumers, who are without meters are made to pay for what they do not consume.
“The act of estimated billing is wicked; you pay far more than the electricity supplied to your line.
“I live in a five-bedroom flat. Before I received my prepaid meter, I was charged between N9,000 and N12,000 monthly.
“In the months that we experienced epileptic power supply, I was charged either N8,000 or N9,000.
“But since I obtained my prepaid meter, the highest I have vended is N5,000, which takes me through two months even when I still use all the appliances I was using when my bill was being estimated,” he said.
He, therefore, called on the JEDC management to work out a reasonable way of charging people who do not have meters.
The situation was found to be the same in Minna, with consumers accusing the electricity supply companies of massive exploitation.
Mrs Simi Adams, a hairdresser, who operates close to the Federal Government College, Minna, said that her shop had no meter and that she was usually charged between N 10,000 and N 15,000 monthly.
“The electricity distribution company is very unfair in its billing system.
“Because I run a saloon, they assume that I consume a lot of power.
“I just wish they could give me a prepaid meter so that I will pay for only what I consume,” she said.
She expressed dismay that the massive charges have had an adverse effect on her business.
“Because of the bills, I hardly make much profit because most of what I get goes to the payment of utility bills.”
Mr Solomon Dingo, a welder in Central Jalingo, who spoke with NAN, also had similar tales of suffering and exploitation.
“Due to the outrageous bills, I disconnected my shop from the electricity company supplying power to me.
“Currently, I depend on a power generating set for my business and so I pay far less.
“When I was connected to the Electricity Distribution Company, I hardly made any meaningful profit.
“Most of my gain went to the payment of light bills; but since I got disconnected, it has been better for me.
“I just buy the diesel that powers my generator and I still make profit,” he said.
He called on the company to provide prepaid meters to its consumers, pointing out that it was the only way the consumer could get a fair deal.
Electricity consumers in Makurdi, Benue State, who spoke with NAN correspondent, decried the high tariff charges by the Jos Electricity Distribution Company (JEDC).
Most of the respondents, who described the charges as “very exploitative”, blamed the situation on the lack of meters, whether prepaid or analogue.
A landlady at Wurukum area of the state capital, Mrs Veronica Afia, berated JEDC for its inability to make meters available to consumers, alleging that it had taken advantage of the situation to charges electricity consumers arbitrarily.
“I feel that denying the consumers prepaid meters is a deliberate attempt to enrich the company and impoverish electricity consumers,” she said.
Also speaking to NAN, Mr Justin Kwaghshi, who runs a shopping mall at North-South Bank area of Makurdi, saqid he was frustrated by the outrageous electricity bills he received every month.
“I have always refused to pay because I am wise enough not to allow anybody or group to defraud me under any guise,” he said.
He said that the company had disconnected electricity in the complex “for about four months now”.
“But I am not bothered because I now make good use of my power generator.
“I feel I am better off without the public light because the charges were more than what I now spend on diesel.
“The least amount I was charged was N20,000, which was in the month of February; the rest were between N25,000 to N38,000,” he said.
Mr Shadrach Nwonkwo, an electric welder around Benue University area, corroborated Kwaghshi, and stated that the charges were “abnormal and unreasonable”.
“The charges are always very high even in months that I hardly see light, much less use it.
“So, I decided to allow them to disconnect electricity from in my shop and I am now using diesel to power my generator which is relatively cheaper compared to the outrageous charges,” he said.
He lamented that he was not breaking even when he relied on electricity from JEDC.
“I was not breaking even and had to contend with massive losses; but the situation is better by far now that I depend on my generating set and can control time of usage and how much to spend,” he said.
A barber in Kanshio, a suburb of Makurdi, Mr James Ullam, also lamented that he closed his shop because of the steady blackout in the area which had spanned three months now.
“I cannot make any profit if I am to use a generating set because the cost of fuel is very high and will gulp the little money that I may realise.
“What I have done is to stay out of any business that requires electricity since the facility is both scarce and expensive,” he said. (NAN)