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July 25, 2024

Tariff Hike: AEDC dares NERC, fails to refund wrongly billed customers

Days after the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, AEDC, was ordered to refund all customers who were wrongly billed amid the recent tariff hike, DAILY POST reports that the Disco has remained adamant.

It could be recalled that the Disco had applied the electricity tariff hike meant for Band A on all customers regardless of their bands.

But following complaints by Nigerians, the Disco apologised to its customers, saying it was due to system failure.

Consequently, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission slammed it with a N200 million fine for misapplying the approved tariff order.

In addition to the fine, the Commission, in a notice to AEDC, ordered a refund to affected customers on or before April 11, and a report was sent to it by April 12.

However, checks by DAILY POST showed that AEDC has not refunded all customers who were wrongly billed despite the expiration of the deadline.

Several customers confirmed to DAILY POST that the firm has yet to issue an energy token refund.

Ezekiel Umanah (with a metre no: 45862856286), a resident of Dutse, Zone 6, said he has yet to get a refund from AEDC.

He was wrongly charged the Band A tariff instead of Band B while purchasing prepaid units on April 3, 2024.

“AEDC is yet to refund me. As a Band B customer, I bought 50,000 electricity units for 206 kilo-watt-hours instead of over 500.

“I am sure several other customers are facing a similar fate at the hands of AEDC. It is terrible if the government and regulatory Commission allow this to go unpunished”, he told the DAILY POST.

Another electricity customer, Loveth Idugu (Meter No 45701255536), said she has yet to get a refund from AEDC weeks after being incorrectly billed.

“On April 4, I bought 82.7kwh tariff for N20,000 instead of 200kwh I used to buy as a Band B customer.

“I am confused about how to get my refund from AEDC. I wonder why NERC issued a directive without Disco’s compliance. This is not fair for electricity customers within AEDC’s franchise”, she said.

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Legal, Licensing & Compliance at NERC, Barr Dafe Akpeneye, said cases of customers who were wrongly billed by AEDC and have yet to get a refund should be forwarded to the Commission for necessary action.

“Cases of those not yet treated can be forwarded to the Commission for necessary action”, he told DAILY POST exclusively.

A source in AEDC who preferred anonymity said the firm’s concern is feeder alignment, not refunds for customers who were wrongly billed.

“AEDC concern right now is what would profit them, which is feeder alignment, not the refund of customers who were wrongly billed”, she told DAILY POST.

Reacting to the enquiry by DAILY POST, Kunle Olubiyo, President of the Nigerian Consumer Protection Network, confirmed that some electricity customers wrongly billed by AEDC were yet to be refunded.

He, however, said some customers confirmed that they have been refunded.

Olubiyo lamented that electricity supply has become a sole commodity for the rich in Nigeria since the new tariff hike.

According to him, customers in Band B, who are supposed to have 16 hours of power supply, currently have only 4-6 hours.

He stressed that supply has dropped drastically for customers in Band B, C, D, and E.

“The infraction on wrongly billing of customers across is from all Discos.

“There are still customers yet to be refunded, but some confirmed they received a refund.

“Outside the energy token refund issue, since the tariff hike for band A customers, band B customers are supposed to get 16 hours of power supply, but they hardly get 4 hours.

“We are not talking of Band C, D, and E customers who hardly get an electricity supply. What the hike has done is that the electricity is now for the rich, while the poor remain in perpetual darkness”, he told DAILY POST.

On his part, the national secretary of the Network for Electricity Consumers Advocacy of Nigeria, Uket Obonga is not surprised at AEDC’s capacity for mischief.

He urged affected customers to follow the conflict resolution procedures laid down according to the 2023 Electricity Act.

“Nobody is surprised that AEDC’s capacity for mischief and confusion about their customers’ classification has not abated.

“It is predicated on greed and desire for increased revenue no matter the method employed,” he stated.

What must Customers do to get an energy token refund?

According to Obonga, affected consumers should do the following to get their energy token refund:

“For now, we implore all affected AEDC customers to follow the slow-paced Conflict Resolution procedures laid down by NERC and enshrined in the New Electricity Act as amended.

“The engagement procedure is slanted in favour of the DisCOs, and NERC will blame the customer for not abiding by the regulations.

“Let the affected customers start by logging formal complaints with AEDC channels, either physically in one of their offices or by Online Reporting Channels on the AEDC website, on Facebook/Instagram, on X( Twitter) or WhatsApp.

“Let the complainants copy NERC and Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, FCCPC, Headquarters.

“Let the complainants exercise great patience as the process may be swift or prolonged towards resolution.

“If after two weeks nothing concrete is done by AEDC, a Letter/Message of REMINDER is necessary by law to be forwarded to AEDC again, but this time COPIES should be forwarded to AEDC-HQ- Attention Office of The MD/CEO, in addition to the copies to NERC and FCCPC.

“The regulation prescribes another 14-day waiting period.

“If after 28 days of waiting nothing was achieved with AEDC, a formal complaint should now be lodged with the compliance desk, NERC-HQ, and ABUJA-FCT. A prompt resolution is assured from NERC-HQ”, he said.

Expert reaction

Wumi Iledare, Professor Emeritus and Executive Director of Emmanuel Egbogah Foundation, said NERC must enforce the law with a penalty after the grace period.

He noted that unethical business behaviour demands sanctions from the NERC to ensure customer protection.

Iledare said that the recent tariff hike was inevitable, but it could be done progressively to make access to electricity affordable to all.

“Refund takes a while. Perhaps the Disco can use an in-kind approach to credit customers with the appropriate unit conversion with the old rate.

“Meanwhile, when treated with contempt, the rules of law can be consequential in the long run to both consumers and the Discos. NERC needs to enforce the law with a penalty after the grace period.

“Business unethical behaviour demands sanctions from NERC to ensure consumer protection.

“A tariff hike is inevitable, but it can be done progressively to make access to electricity affordable to all.

“This, however, requires full metering of all customers to ensure equity and minimise power theft. I hesitate to suggest that many people know the power industry, but few understand it.

“Tariff rate setting is not about feeling or people’s expectations because there is 207 TCF of gas.

“It is about the investment to convert gas to power and evacuate the electrons to end users with an appropriate return on investment guaranteed”, he told DAILY POST.

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