The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has empowered Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) to disconnect customers who fail to pay their electricity bills after 12 working days. In its “Customer Protection Regulations 2023” released over the weekend, NERC stated that DisCos cannot bill a customer for periods in which the customer is disconnected. DisCos must give a notice of disconnection to customers stating the date, time, and reason for disconnection.
The Commission has outlined the following conditions that must be fulfilled before DisCos can exercise their rights to disconnect customers for failing to pay their bills by the specified payment date:
- The payment date must be clearly stated on the bill.
- The payment date must be at least 10 days from the date of delivery of the bill to the customer.
- The period between the payment date and the date of scheduled disconnection for nonpayment is not less than two working days after the payment date.
- The Distribution Company must verify from its records that payment has not been made by the customer.
DisCos have also been authorized by NERC to disconnect a customer without notice if the customer is illegally connected to the network, the disconnection is dangerous to the network, or where the customer fails to grant access to have the meter reading taken.
The Nigerian electricity supply industry (NESI) is currently grappling with a severe debt burden which has posed a serious challenge to the survival of the industry. The situation is further compounded by massive tariff shortfalls by electricity consumers’ heavy indebtedness to the DisCos.
As of Q1 2022, DisCos’ average bill collection efficiency was 67.36%, while customers owed them about N95.8 billion. The commission said that DisCos have estimated commercial losses of 47.88%, comprising aggregate technical and commercial losses (23.44%) and collection losses (30.66%).
Chairman of the Electricity Consumers Association of Nigeria, Chijioke James, says that while he does not encourage customers to owe for electricity consumed, providing meters to customers remains the most viable way. James further stated that estimated billing methods are arbitrary and should be discontinued immediately.