THE Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has directed electricity distribution companies (DisCos) to disconnect consumers who have not paid their electricity bills for, at least, 12 days.
The NERC gave the directive in its latest regulation tagged, ‘Customer Protection Regulations, 2023.’
According to the regulation, a DisCo may disconnect supply to a customer’s premises when the client fails to pay the amount billed by the payment date specified on the bill or violates other terms and conditions agreed upon with the firm.
The electricity regulator also outlined the conditions that must be fulfilled before DisCos can exercise their right to disconnect customers for failure to pay their bills as and when due.
It further said that the payment deadline must be clearly stated on the bill.
The commission said, “The payment date must be, at least, 10 days from the date of the delivery of the bill to the customer. Bills may be delivered physically to the customer’s premises or by some other electronic means, including text messages or electronic mail, as agreed with the customer.
“The period between the payment date and date of scheduled disconnection for nonpayment is not less than two working days after the payment date.”
The regulatory agency also emphasised that the bill correcting a previous inaccurate bill shall have a payment date which is, at least, 10 working days from the date of delivery of the corrected bill to the customer.
NERC said the DisCos must also verify from its records that payment had not been made by the customer.
It further noted that a DisCo may disconnect a customer’s electricity supply without notice when the customer is connected to the DisCo’s network in an unauthorised manner.
Instances given as “unauthorised manner” include “where the customer’s connection is considered to be dangerous to the integrity of the network and/or affects the quality of supply to other customers, and where the DisCo is not granted access to read a meter that is located within the customer’s premises.”
NERC also said a DisCo may deny a customer’s request for supply of electricity over refusal to provide an acceptable means of identification or to pay the security deposit requested by the company.
“Whenever a customer requests a distribution company to disconnect electricity supply to his premises, the distribution company shall disconnect the supply after confirming that the customer’s request will not impact on other customers in the premises that require continued supply.
“The distribution company shall ensure that it is able to monitor consumption to the premises of the customer that has requested a disconnection that was not effected due to the impact on other customers in the premises, to assess the customer’s consumption,” it said.
Nigeria’s power sector has been facing challenges of liquidity, a concern that industry analysts say can only be corrected with enforcement of maximum remittances by power distribution companies.
The sector enjoys subsidy from government, which is being facilitated by World Bank loans, but industry watchers insist the development is not sustainable.
To a development economist, Celestine Okeke, electricity distribution companies must priortise metering of consumers to avoid concerns of arbitrary billing complaints.
“DisCos should meter consumers and ensure the issue of estimated billing is stopped. Why we normally have the issue of electricity debtors is because many Nigerians are on estimated bill and are kicking against arbitrary billing,” Okeke said.