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Prepayment Meters: Consumers petition Power Minister over Ikeja Electric’s ‘threatening’ operations

*Power sector stakeholders have urged the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company Plc, in Lagos State, to make substantial investments to upgrade the company’s ageing infrastructure and customer service management skills, towards discontinuing the current brigandage and undue exploitation of electricity consumers

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Some entrepreneurs and power consumers of Ikeja Electricity Distribution Plc, otherwise known as Ikeja Electric or IKEDC, in Lagos State, again, have sent a Save Our Soul (SOS) message to the Honourable Minister for Power to prevail upon the DisCo from disrupting their operations.

The petitioners reportedly accused the Ikeja Electric of desperate attempts to destablise their businesses in the economy.

Specifically, they accused the officials of the energy company, perceived in certain quarters to be the “largest” but most “irresponsible” electricity distribution company in Nigeria, of threatening to ‘’forcefully confiscate their meters under the pretext that the consumers were operating with what they termed ‘’old meters’.”

Prepayment electricity meters

It was learnt that the staff of the electricity Distribution Company (DisCo) from Igbobi Undertaking in the Somolu area of Lagos State, who mobilised to forcefully uninstall and chart the meters away were resisted.

The aggrieved consumers stated: ‘’And, despite repeated explanations and appeals, the electricity company team said to be led by a male management of the company refused, bluntly to listen, saying that Ikeja Electric Distribution Company had already phased out ‘old meters’.

‘’We further appealed to the officers that the meters were purchased by us and that it will be illegal to withdraw the meters  which we bought, without replacement.”

They stated: ‘’In fact, we told them that we are of the opinion that in a normal clime, the meters should be replaced when they are withdrawing the current ones instead of putting us in darkness.

‘’But to our dismay, they mobilised the second day, in multiples, apparently poised for a showdown with us.

‘’However, as law-abiding citizens, we maintained our position that our meters were sold to us by Ikeja Electricity Company, and further our claims that we paid with bankdrafts in favour of Ikeja Electric. Yet, they insisted on taking away our property.”

Are electricity prepayment meters free for consumers?

The petitioners further wrote: “Yet, the team leader (IKEDC), who was simply called ‘Sam’, the Undertaking Manager, told us that throughout the country, meters are the property of electricity distribution companies, hence they are at liberty to withdraw same anytime, even, without notice.

‘’Despite the argument that we would inform our lawyers about the development, for advise, the Ikeja Electric men re-surfaced the third day with ladders, threatening to illegally cart away our meters and we still, as gentlemen and law-abiding citizens asked them to reason.

Illegal payments for mere ‘metering applications’

The consumers also said: ‘’At that point, one of them told us that he did not expect us to argue the matter because if occasion demands, he would never resist taking his own meter by the company.

“The electricity company however, said that customers with ‘old meter’ should apply for ‘new meter’ while they would be ‘put on estimates’ pending the approval of their application.

‘’We were mandated to pay for ‘new meters’ costing approximately N117,000.00 each, within 14 days, failure which  the officials threatened to take “drastic action’’.

IKEDC and exploitation unlimited?

ConsumerConnect investigations also revealed that IKEDC has varied issues with electricity consumers, especially in relation to prepayment meters alone.

A retired female Federal civil servant from the Health Ministry and septuagenarian, who is resident of Ajuwon, in Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State, also said she was shortchanged for over a year just for a mere application for an additional prepayment meter for one of her tenants.

She lamented that shortly after the application for and subsequent approval for the new meter, the DisCo started sending debit alert of N62,315.03 per month charges without any service to her on the meter account.

According to her, with neither mapping nor supply of the prepayment meter, Ikeja Electric illegally, had debited her almost N600,000 as of April 2022, before she later wrote a letter of complaint to the Jankara Area Office and subsequently, did a follow-up visit to the Tipper Garage office of the company in Akute area of the state.

Still the consumer said IKEDC sent her this message December 2022: “Dear esteemed customer: As a follow up to the survey carried out on your premises.

“Account number: XXXXXXX. Please find below details of your payment. Payment Reference Code: XXXXXXX. Please click to pay .

“Thank you for allowing us serve you.”

Report as well indicates that a similar situation was reported by a top Lagos State civil servant resident in the Ipaja New Town Scheme, an estate flagged off by the Lagos State Government in Ilapo Village via AIT, Alagbado Lagos.

The consumer was said to have approached Ikeja Electric for the replacement of her damaged ‘Customer Card’. However, she was only told to buy a new meter because the present one is ‘outdated’.

According to the affected consumer, ‘”they bluntly told me l would need to immediately pay for a new one which l did not plan for due to the present economic realities’’.

Two of the affected consumers Mr. Dele Oguntayo, journalist  and Mr. Abass Adie, a businessman, narrated how the ‘bold-faced’ Ikeja Electric personnel swooped on his premises for the withdrawal of his meter to which he declined.

Oguntayo explained that he applied for a meter in year 2010 having paid N55,000.00 bankdraft to Ikeja Electric and was not metered for several months.

While he was being issued what he termed ‘cut-throat estimated bills’ for about a year, he added that “at a point, despite operating with a stand-by generator for several hours daily, the Ikeja Electric was billing him thousands of Naira every month.”

He said: “The meter l applied for in the first quarter of that year was not supplied until about a year after my application and payment despite repeated visits and pleas to the company.

‘’Something will interest you: A professional colleague in a news agency as Energy Correspondent in Lagos had come visiting; and, about a year after his first visit, he promised to take my matter up with the Managing Director of Ikeja Electric.

‘”He even challenged me that as a journalist, l should have approached either the company’s Head of Public Affairs or better still, the Managing Director.”

The consumer further related: “So, less than 24 hours of his intervention, two meters were brought to me, same day, on the instruction of the Managing Director of Ikeja Electric!”

Technical incompetence, limited investments in infrastructure, poor customer service

The consumer stated: “My conclusion then was that the officials were hoarding the meters for the highest bidders and did not attend to applicants, except through touts.

“It may interest you again that about ten years later, a female staff of the Ikeja Electricity Company who claimed to be of the marketing department came with another joker, claiming that the meter I was using was the allocation of a woman within the zone.”

He also narrated: “She threatened to withdraw the meter because, according to her, l probably manipulated the system to secure the meter through the back-door.

‘’Consequently, I  made several visits to see the Manager when they relocated to Obanikoro area of Ikorodu Road, but was always told that their boss was busy.

‘’But when I spoke with one Mr. Ayeni, the Ikeja Electric Spokesman on the telephone last week, about the recent threat and my resolve to brief a lawyer, he directed me to one Mrs. Ayanga, the Igbobi Business Manager, who could still not be reached for an appointment.

While reacting to the incident, he was of the view that upgrading of facilities, including the metering system was a welcome development, and asked the company to phase payment of the new meter rather than putting consumers on estimated bills after withdrawal of the existing meters.

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