The Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC Forum Owerri, Imo State has been accused of deliberately working against the interest of electricity consumers in the communities that lacked knowledge of identifying discrepancies in billing methods.
The Association for Public Policy Analysis, (APPA-NIGERIA), which raised the allegation in a statement in Abuja, further accused the NERC Forum, Owerri of covering up the wrongs of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, EEDC, at the expenses of consumers in the communities across the state.
President of APPA-Nigeria, Comrade Princewill Okorie, who signed the statement, recalled how the association was meted with humiliation and embarrassment on 23rd September, 2020 and 23rd November 2020 by Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission Forum Office, Owerri located in Imo State
The association also disclosed that the ongoing National Mass Metering programme, NMMP, of the Federal Government has not been mentioned to community electricity consumers in Imo State
The association in forefront of advocating against exploitation of consumers said the NERC Forum, Owerri has frustrated its several efforts to appear to deliberate on the complaints we presented before communities in Imo State.
According to Okorie, “We are constrained to draw the attention of Nigerian media to the unlawful act of impunity, humiliation and embarrassment meted to our association on 23rd September, 2020 and 23rd November 2020 by Nigerians Electricity Regulatory Commission Forum Office, Owerri located in Imo State.
“The forum at two occasions invited us to appear to deliberate on the complaints we presented before communities in Imo State that gave us written authority to represent them. On 23rd September, 2020 and 23rd November, 2020, but refused to hear from us by walking us out of the hearing room in the presence of staff of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company that we complained against, and the Community representatives that requested us to represent them.
“We suspect that the reason for this unacceptable actions of NERC Forum Owerri is to protect Enugu Electricity Distribution Company that Unlawfully refused the debulk communities in Imo State in contravention of NERC directive that communities should be debulked since 2016.
This refusal to debulk communities gave EEDC the opportunity to arbitrarily bill the communities without following NERC estimated Billing regulations/methodology.
“Our association’s effort in analyzing the bills given to the communities and identifying discrepancies and unlawful fraudulent billing methods, and demanding that NERC Forum Office Owerri address them is provoking members of the NERC Forum Owerri who are bent on covering up the wrongs of EEDC at the expenses of consumers in the communities who lack knowledge of Consumer Protection and Licensee Performance Standards of Electric Power Sector Reform Sector Reform Act 2005.”
He noted that, “For examples NERC Forum Office sent out invitation on 4th march, 2020 to complainants to appear before the forum on 12th March, 2020 at 12:30 pm for hearing of their complaints. Consumers/complainants arrived and waited for over 1:30 hours in the room without anyone addressing them.
“On inquiry as why the forum was not seating up till 2:00 pm for hearing that was slated to hold at 12:30 pm. They were told that forum members were meeting among themselves. Consumers including our association challenged the rationale behind the forum keeping complainants waiting on the excuse of meeting whereas they would have met before that day. The forum members are holding this observation against our association and vowed to ensure we stop appearing before them.
“On 23rd September, 2020, NERC Forum Owerri invited us for hearing of our complaint against EEDC for billing Ohohia community in Mbaitoli LGA N5.8 Million. The community through us wrote complaint on 15th June, 2020 to EEDC without action and escalated the complaint to NERC Forum Owerri on 13th August, 2020.
“We were amazed that from 15th June, 2020 to 23rd September, 2020 EEDC did not address the complaint and during hearing, they told the forum that they were planning to take action. We raised objection as their answer was non-committal and presented picture of where a high tension wire had been on a cassava tree since June and the company did not take action on it as it was reported to them.
“We were taken aback when the forum members shouted us down for raising the issue and insisting we should get out of the hearing room. We inquired to know the reason and they said we challenged them last time for delaying before attending to complainants. They further said we shall not appear before the forum again.”
He recalled that, “On returning to Abuja, we wrote petition on this incident dated 29th September, 2020 to the Chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and chief Executive, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
“We also sought audience and met with Prof. Momoh, Chairman of NERC in the presence of Dr Arigu, Commissioner in charge of Consumer Affairs and G.M. Consumer Affairs NERC headquarters, Abuja.
“In our presence, the Chairman instructed Dr Arigu, Commissioner in charge of Consumer Affairs and G.M. Consumer Affairs to investigate our petition and make NERC Forum Owerri know that protection of consumers interest is the reason for setting them up. Hence, they should treat consumers with respec
It is to our dismay that we were invited to appear before NERC Forum, Owerri on 23rd November, 2020 over Umuomeniho, Mbieri matter in which we are challenging the claim of over twenty one million naira electricity bill EEDC gave them.
“To our dismay, we were deprived opportunity to speak on behalf of the community before the forum irrespective of the fact that the community dully wrote us to represent them as NERC rule in complaint management provides. Most wicked is that they did not consider the fact that they (NERC Forum) dully invited us to come which made us spend money on air-ticket, hotel accommodation and inconveniences.
“The above actions reflect the determination of Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission to use her forum offices to frustrate our association from advocating against exploitation and advocating against exploitation of consumers whom they have failed to educate to know their rights to prevent DISCOS exploitation.
“It is also necessary to inform the media that the mass metering policy of Federal Government has not been mentioned to community electricity consumers in Imo State.”