AEDC customers groan under payment of outstanding arrears, group metering amidst tariff hike rumours

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By Alex Enemanna, Abuja 

As Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, AEDC continues in its mass metering programme, customers have said the fifty percent deduction passed on their account from each energy unit purchased is way too high. 

This is as some customers alleged they are being charged as much as seventy five percent from their outstanding arrears each time they purchase units for their prepaid meter. 

According to residents of Gishiri, a suburb in Abuja city centre, the outstanding bill from their estimated charge which is usually loaded into the prepaid metering device is being deducted at a rate they consider high. 

The residents largely made up of low income earners while not disputing the payment of outstanding arrears carried over from their estimated charge to their metering devices noted that fifty to seventy five percent charge leaves them with little to use. 

They also frowned at inability of the electricity distribution company, AEDC to provide each apartment with one meter, making the residents to resort to using the prepaid meter as against each for a household. 

A resident who gave his name as Pastor Joseph wondered why the outstanding arrears he described as scandalously estimated was added from postpaid into the prepaid metering device. According to the cleric, the residents are being forced to indirectly pay for electricity they never consumed.

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“When I came to this environment in 2013, I inherited an outstanding bill of about N160,000 from a resident I never knew. It doesn’t make any sense to compel a new occupant to pay the outstanding electricity bill inherited from a past tenant in an apartment. That is not all, it is expected that the prepaid meter will reasonably aid people to monitor their electricity consumption but it has become counterproductive. As I speak now, the scandalously estimated billing stands at about N900,000 despite significant efforts to ensure it reduces and the same figure has been loaded into the meter the recently issued to me. They deduct as much as 50% as part of payment of the so called outstanding bill” he said.

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He therefore urged the company to end the era of configuring outstanding arrears from postpaid into the prepaid meter, noting that it is exploitation and a violation of their right as customers. 

Another resident who gave his name as Tochukwu Alozie said grouping a number of residents and singling them out for one prepaid meter causes rift, calling for one device for one apartment.

“As much as I prefer meter over the estimated billing, I think AEDC can make more efforts to make sure that the rift we experience with our neighbours, resulting from six to seven persons using one meter reduces. The feeling is that some users consume more units than others, so what is the essence? Again in my own line, we contribute equal amount in buying light unit which is usually given to us in 50% after the deduction of outstanding arrears. When people thought they have escaped the crazy billing of AEDC, another outrageous deduction awaits you when you finally get the meter. It’s quite frustrating” he lamented.

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Reacting to the development, the General Manager, Corporate Communications of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, AEDC Mr. Oyebode Fadipe said the prerogative to recover debts on behalf of other stakeholders in the value chain is domiciled in the company, deploying any means it considers most effective. 

According to Fadipe, the company is working within a time line to recover all debts owed by customers, maintaining that the funds do not belong only to AEDC but investors and other stakeholders in the electricity value chain who need the resources for their own day-to-day business. 

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Fadipe further underlined that as much as the company can, it tries to issue one prepaid meter to one customer, adding that in coming days that will be fully achieved. 

Recall that the media was recently awash with an alleged new tariff order issued by the National Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC to Electricity Distribution Companies, DisCos and Electricity Generation Companies, GenCos informing them of the approval to increase electricity tariffs with effect from September 1.

This will be the third tariff increase in about a year with the first covering the period from January to June 2021, the second, July to August 2021 and the recent rumoured increase expected to cover the period of September to December 2021.

Findings by our correspondent reveals that as at May this year, an AEDC estimated bill for 4 bedroom residents of Gishiri was pegged at N18,770.42. This however increased to N80,703.21 as at July for the same number of rooms with no noticeable improvement in the power supply.

In August, it skyrocketed to N106,909.02.

This is happening at a time when the premium motor spirit, PMS sells for N165/L, further stifling commercial activities in a country where small and medium sized companies play a leading role in the economy. 

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