Recently, the Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, announced that the government will deploy six million meters before June 2023 under the second and third phases of the National Mass Metering Programme. However, Kunle Olubiyo, the Nigeria Consumer Protection Network President and power Sector Perspectives Coordinator, said that the projection is not possible. He said that the Phase Zero of the program was stopped because some power distribution companies were signing for meters that were not delivered as opposed to meters received. In simpler words, they were invoicing for meters that were not supplied.
He said that this has made the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which was providing funding for the program, to go to court concerning the issue. The issue raised by the CBN or the issue that led to the abrupt end of Phase Zero of the program has arguably not been addressed. Mr. Olubiyo wondered why the government cannot just concentrate on the general elections and allow the incoming government to come in and do an audit of the mass metering program.
Metering fund should be handled by Bank of Industry or an equivalent agency.
The 10-year moratorium on the privatization of the power sector is supposed to expire. Hence, the NCPN President is concerned why the government is dabbling in the aforementioned issue at all. Mr. Olubiyi said that the consumer network expected that there should be a metering fund, which should be handled by the Bank of Industry or another financial institution so that the manufacturers of the meter can access the funds. If they provide much-needed banking instruments to access the funds and they are able to increase their manufacturing capacity, consumers could just go to them and buy.
Just like the point of sales (POS), the system should be designed in such a way that it will be universal. This will ensure that a customer can just go to a meter manufacturer and let them be seamlessly synchronized such that if you buy it, you take it to the distribution companies (DisCos) and their engineers can program the mater just like it is done. Mr Olubiyi said that instead of the government getting involved in what the private sector is supposed to concentrate on, it should channel its energy into other areas of development.
Issue of corruption underlies the metering program.
When asked if the government should abandon the mass metering initiative, he said that it is better off for everyone if the government allows the private sector to run it. According to him, “Do you know what goes under the table for a meter manufacturer to be slated for patronage under the National Mass Metering Programme? Do you know the amount a major meter manufacturer will have to part with to get listed? If I’m going to give you one million meters to supply, how much concession are you giving me as a cut?”
He claimed that there is no government institution that is coordinating the National Mass Metering Programme. It is not that of the CBN. At the Federal Ministry of Power, there is no department – and no body, no institution, no governance structure, no individual – that is coordinating the program on behalf of the government. When we have no governance structure, no institution at the CBN, at the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), or anywhere else presiding over the program, how is it possible to deploy that number of meters in that period of time?
Mass Metering Programme is no unit’s initiative.
The NERC is supposed to be directly involved with the program, but Mr. Olubiyo said that all the programs that the commission has been initiating have been “copies and pastes.” He said the commission adopts programs prepared by external forces hook, line and sinker. Although the Meter asset Provider scheme was introduced by the NERC, the National Mass Metering Programme is neither here nor there. It is owned by nobody. There is no governance over it and it is not a program of the NERC.