Con­sumers’ Trust Re­quired to Re­duce Power Sec­tor Debt, Says Ex­pert

THISDAY - - BUSINESS WORLD - Ra­heem Ak­ing­bolu

The to­tal un­paid li­a­bil­ity of N1.1 tril­lion in the power sec­tor, which was said to be ris­ing by N30 bil­lion monthly, will re­duce and ame­lio­rate if there is trust be­tween power sup­pli­ers and the end users, the Pres­i­dent, Con­sumer Ad­vo­cacy Foun­da­tion of Nige­ria, Sola Salako, has said. Salako also called on dis­cos to in­ten­sify con­sumer ed­u­ca­tion to bridge the com­mu­ni­ca­tion gap be­tween them and the cus­tomers.

In an in­ter­view with THISDAY, Salako, who ex­pressed shock over the re­cent dec­la­ra­tion that the coun­try’s power sec­tor risked col­laps­ing un­der a heavy debt bur­den, blamed stake­hold­ers in the power sec­tor for not em­bark­ing on enough en­light­en­ment cam­paign to gal­vanise their cus­tomers.

“They need the con­sumers to part­ner with them to make the en­tire sys­tem work. Con­sumers need ad­e­quate ed­u­ca­tion be­cause there is gap in level of aware­ness. I am shocked at the dec­la­ra­tion that some cred­i­ble cus­tomers are pay­ing for some other cus­tomers that are by-pass­ing me­ters.

“The prob­lem is that when con­sumers don’t know the rea­son why they should be pay­ing for power which they didn’t con­sume, they won’t co­op­er­ate with the dis­cos. They (the con­sumers) may be un­con­cerned if the Dis­cos are telling them how much they are los­ing be­cause they are not in­ter­ested be­cause they feel they are be­ing over charged.

“But if they ex­plain to them that this is what hap­pened. We give you crazy bill be­cause peo­ple are by-pass­ing me­ters and are not-pay­ing; they will help the dis­cos fish them out. Most im­por­tantly, we have to bridge that deficit of trust as soon as we can. Af­ter this, we can work as part­ners be­cause we don’t want the sec­tor to col­lapse,” she said.

Ear­lier, in his open­ing re­mark at at round­table or­gan­ised by Sa­hara En­ergy En­ergy, the Group Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of Sa­hara Power Group Lim­ited, Kola Adesina, had called for align­ment be­tween pol­i­cy­mak­ers and op­er­a­tors, adding that a cost re­flec­tive tar­iff is in­evitable.

He said: “The dis­course around elec­tric­ity is usu­ally emo­tional and emo­tive. There is a mis­align­ment of vi­sions and poli­cies in the sec­tor. I won­der why the cost of a commodity should be higher than the price of the commodity.

“There is no eco­nomic magic to guar­an­tee ef­fi­ciency in such a state of af­fairs. There is need

to be paid to the sec­tor a cost re­flec­tive tar­iffs. There is the need for sys­temic eval­u­a­tion of every pol­icy churned out.”

Speak­ing fur­ther, Adesina also dis­closed that it is im­pos­si­ble to me­ter all cus­tomers in Nige­ria.

Like Salako, he also em­pha­sised the need for trust among stake­hold­ers.

“When I hear ar­gu­ment about me­ter­ing, I won­der. I won­dered be­cause we ar­gued about what should come last to come first. Es­ti­mated billing is a univer­sal phe­nom­e­non; it is not a Nige­rian thing.

“Every­one should not as­sume that it is only in Nige­ria that you don’t have me­ters. It is def­i­nitely and cer­tainly im­pos­si­ble for the uni­verse as we have it to­day to be me­tered.

“That’s the re­al­ity. In­ter­est­ingly, what I have put for­ward as to why we are where we are, is the lack of trust. There’s noth­ing else but trust. These in­fra­struc­tures do not do any­thing but to cal­i­brate us­age,”

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