Electricity consumers in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria’s South-South region are in dilemma following reduction of kilowatt unit charge on residential buildings in the state by Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company with effect from June 2021.
For months, consumers mostly residents of residential houses were paying N54.79 per kilowatt unit up to May 2021.
Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission had approved payment of N32.23 per unit, and advised the company to increase the unit charge if electricity consumption improves to more than 12 hours per day to its customers.
However, NERC directed the company to allow the status quo – N32 – per unit to remain since the supply and consumption rates in many areas in the state have not gone up to 16 hours per day.
This compelled some consumers to have petitioned NERC to intervene in forcing down what was seen as arbitrary charge per unit considering the dwindling economic realities in the country.
Despite the rate reduction, the consumers are yet to come to terms with the new development as they suspect the company could be giving its customers with one hand and using another to collect from them.
Straightnews reliably learned that NERC Forum Office at 63 Osongama Road, Uyo convened a meeting of customers and reached a resolution directing PHEDC to reduce the charges as they contradicted the NERC’s approved rates.
It was gathered that the company had been charging N54.79 from September 2020 on residential buildings against N32.23 approved by NERC.
”PHED had been charging consumers of residential houses in Uyo and beyond on the sub-head- Tariff Code: B-Non MD, Tariff Rate: 54.79 up to May 2021 bill,’’ Eyo Akpan living along Udo Ekpo Nkpo Street in Uyo Local Government Area, alleged.
According to him, ”Since the exorbitant charges coupled with estimated bills, we complained bitterly and appealed to the company to reduce the high rates, yet to no avail. We petitioned the company to NERC in Calabar and at 63 Osongama Road, Uyo. We attended Electricity Consumers’ Forum meeting at Discovery Park along Udo Umanah Stareet, Uyo.’’
”We were surprised that in June 2021, the company hearkened to the voice of reason by reducing the high tariffs. In both pre-paid meter and analogue meter, the unit rate is N32.23.
”My concern is that NERC has forced the company to collect what is officially due to them. But my fear is that the company can use another means to extort money from its customers.’’
In an interview with Straightnews, Mr. Uwemedimo Owo, residing along High Tension Street off Udo Ekpo Nkpo Street commended NERC for the intervention in slashing the unit charges, thus alleviating the burdens of the consumers.
”I doubt the sincerity of the company in charging its customers properly. I hope and pray the company does not play abracadabra on its customers again using another payment regime to arm-twist its customers,’’ he remarked.
Owo, therefore, appealed to NERC Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) to intervene in the estimated bills to check undue exploitation of the consumers.
In interview with Straightnews, Peter Dickson, senior manager/NERC Forum secretary, thanked the consumers for their understanding and patience in bearing with the commission while discussions were going for reduction of the rates.
”Whatever complaints customers have, route to us. We are in a position to resolve any surcharging of customers. We want to maintain a level playing ground for the company and its customers,’’ he advised.
Dickson, therefore, advised consumers using analogue meters but are charged arbitrarily which are not read to lodge the report with the office for solution.
However, Clifford Thomas, the National Co-ordinator of Akwa Ibom Human Rights Community who spoke with Straightnews commended NERC for intervening in the reduction of the exorbitant charges.
Thomas, who is also a lawyer, hoped the reduction would serve as palliative to the customers who were short-changed in electricity consumption and charges for several some months.