Worried by the monthly influx of inflated electricity tariff, otherwise described as “Crazy Bills”, some Lagos-based lawyers on Friday urged the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to map out pricing guidelines for the benefit of energy consumers.
They lawyers who spoke with journalists described as “outrageous” the monthly bills sent by Electricity Distribution Companies, and classified same as a crime against the Nigerian public.
They called for the adoption of an urgent measure to serve as a control on the pricing system in electricity distribution.
Mrs Vivian Ekwegh, from the law firm of Chief Benson Ndakara and Co, said “Crazy Bills” was exploitative and a crime against the Nigerian masses.
Exemplifying herself as a victim of excessive billing, she said: “Estimated billing is a crime against the Nigerian masses because this is just one out of many ways in which the masses are being exploited.
“I am a victim of estimated billing, and in spite of erratic power supply, each month I am sent a “crazy bill” to pay up or risk disconnection,” she said
Ekwegh said that efforts to go through several channels to redress the situation and obtain a prepaid meter had failed severally, as the bills kept coming in monthly.
“In spite of going through the appropriate channels to get a prepaid meter which, in my opinion, is a proper pricing system to determine how much I really owe; it has proved abortive.
“This raises my suspicion that indeed, estimated billing may be intentional; it is a racketeering against the Nigerian public,” she said, and called for proactive measures on the way forward.
“The solution is for the NERC to live up to its responsibility of protecting the Nigerian consumers by ensuring that every household is issued a prepaid meter.
“If this is done, it will foster a proper pricing system and better estimation of how much electricity consumers utilise,” Ekwegh said.
A Constitutional lawyer, Mr Spurgeon Ataene, Managing Partner at Spurgeon Ataene and Co, puts his opinion in the following words:
“Crazy, outrageous, excessive and nonchalant estimated billing has become a menace to the citizens of this country.
“I live within the Yaba area of Lagos and for the past four years, I receive electricity bills between N15,000 and N25,000 monthly, with insistence that I must pay up before re-connection.
“I have been paying under duress for some years now, and I have written several petitions, yet nothing has been done.
“This has further emboldened them to target my apartment for disconnection every month just to humiliate me for daring to petition and demand for prepaid meter.
“I live in a residential apartment with no industrial equipment like a factory,” Ataene said, calling for urgent redress of the billing system.
“The truth is that urgent intervention is needed to curtail these excesses; imagine how they sometimes disconnect the light, leaving naked wires on the ground and endangering the lives of citizens in some instances.
“The NERC must now embark on aggressive enlightenment exercises aimed at correcting the flaws, delete illegal accumulation of bills and ensure that every house without a prepaid meter gets checked to know their actual power consumption,” he said.
He said that the billing system should be made dependent on the availability of power for the period under review.
He noted that another panacea to curbing massive estimated billings is to commission a compulsory provision of prepaid meters nationwide, and which will be at no cost to consumers.
“Revenue through this means will be directly sent to government instead of allowing some few people to sabotage the economy.
“Those employed into sensitive places like Electricity Companies should be made to realise the enormity of their tasks, and sign undertakings that where they oppress citizens or sabotage the economy, they will be investigated and prosecuted with a consequent sack if found guilty.
“Finally, the electricity authorities can publish phone numbers of officials to reach for complaints, so that illegal bills received, can be sent to their WhatsApp and specifying the nature of apartment, household equipment and location.
“If these steps are taken, I am confident there will be an instant check; no one should be allowed to toy with the live wire of the economy,” he said
In the same vein, another Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Emenike Nnoromlele of Divine Solicitors, urged regulatory authorities to come out with a billing system which will itemise how much each point will consume in a specified duration.
He said that this was to void the orchestration of mischief, adding that the same will also prevent an abuse of the exercise.