MARCUS EYARHONO, a Lagos based legal practitioner shares his experience about the big fraud being exhibited by electricity companies in Nigeria with SECURITY MONITOR’s SHOLA AKINYELE in this exclusive interview and calls on anti graft agency to prosecute the electricity companies for defrauding Nigerians
YOU WROTE A PETITION AGAISNT ELECTRICITY COMPANIES RECENTLY, WHY?
I wrote the petition because of the crazy bills been sent to me by electricity company. Every month they give me bill of over ten thousand naira even when I calculated the number of days electricity was supply to my house and realized it was nothing to talk about. But the beauty of it is that few days after I wrote the petition the PHCN officials came to my house and asked if I were the one who wrote petition against them. When I affirmed I was the one they quickly brought prepaid meter and install it in my house and since then, I don’t pay more two thousand in a month.
WHAT DO YOU THINK NIGERIA SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ELECTRICITY?
Thank you very much; I found it very strange not too long ago that the National Electricity Regulatory Commission approved a hike of electricity tariff in Nigeria. Now there are a lot of things people don’t know in this country as regards to the electricity bill. Every meter has it Statement of Account. It just like a statement of account you have with a bank. Each meter has its statement of accounts. If you demand for print out the statement of account of each meter and scrutinized it you will observe that the amount of money that consumer have paid over the years is far higher than the worth of electricity supply for that electricity meter. So with this N.E.P.A, P.H.C.N, DISCO, GENCO or Electricity Distribution Companies are heavily indebted to every electricity consumer in this country. In my opinion, I think they should be talking of refund of the excess to these consumers instead of hike. The hike is an irony it means that the leaders who have approved tariff increment don’t know what is happening in the industry.
ARE YOU SAYING THE MONEY DOES NOT GO INTO THE ELECTRICITY COMPANIES OR IS IT GOING TO THE PRIVATE POCKETS OF THE STAFF?
It’s a collaborated fraud. They are aware that we don’t know the calculation of the meter. Once they are doing their accounts they will deduct the excesses. For instance if you issue estimated bill for a particular month on the ground that you are not able to take reading in subsequent month, you are supposed to revise that month in which you issued estimated bill to reconcile the bill for the month, because the estimated bill most of time is far beyond the actual bill. But we all know that when they issued bills they will just go back to reconcile it, that’s where the problem comes from, so they are not ignorant of it they know they are heavily indebted to the consumers.
DO YOU THINK GOVERNMENT IS NOT AWARE OF IT OR GOVERNMENT TOO ARE ACCOMPLICE?
The government; it seems there are no difference between the government and the electricity companies, they are one and they have the same interest.
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK PEOPLE SHOULD DO?
Nigerians should agitate for their right like I told you I have my statement of account for my meter at home. But I know that a lot of people are not aware of this, the last bill I received on my analogue meter before I got prepaid meter was Ten thousand naira, that was in September 2013, I received my prepaid meter in September 2013, till date I have not paid up to twenty five thousand as bill on my prepaid meter and the last bill that was given to me on the analogue meter for a month was Ten thousand naira, can you see the difference and that is what we are talking about.
WHAT YOU ARE SAYING NOW IS THAT ANALOGUE METER IS A FRAUD?
Yes; as at when I was using analogue meter some of appliances that I have in my house today have not been bought. The load as at when I was using my analogue meter is less than what I have today. The only reason this company don’t want to give out the prepaid meter is because they know that it will drastically reduce their revenue, so they are hidden under the analogue meter to continue to cheat the people.
The prepaid meter is something of elementary technology, so what is special about prepaid meter that it cannot go round, they will not allow it because they know what they are doing and they are doing this because they know Nigerians are gullible and ignorant of their right. Somebody said you pushed Nigerians to the wall with bad policy rather than to fight back, they look for a way to escape the wall and continued to run. Like Fella said we all ‘’suffering and smiling’’ otherwise there is no issue Nigerians should not fight for themselves that we need prepaid meter. And the worst fraud agency in Nigeria today is the Electricity distribution companies with their estimated billing system. EFCC needs to extend its dragnet of investigation into the activities of this massive fraud so that at the end of every month they did not have any power to add one naira to the bill of any consumer. And it must be a scientific methodology for the determining the bill and the methodology should be well known to both parties so that when they say this is your bill you can be able to sit down and cross check whether it is actually the reflection of your usage or not. When you go to the filling station to buy fuel, you will be looking at the meter and see what you are paying for; It as simple as that.