According to an analysis of the most recent monthly number of overbilled customers, power distribution companies overbilled roughly 7.1 million unmetered electricity consumers between January and September 2023.

Power distributors overcharged customers by over N105 billion, according to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, an agency of the Federal Government, which found this out in the various Regulatory Interventions for Non-Compliance with the Order on Capping of Estimated Billing to Unmetered Customers, which were issued to the 11 Discos.

Based on figures our correspondent calculated, Yola Disco overcharged N541.9 million on 42,902 customers during the review period, while Abuja Disco overcharged N17.9 billion on 1,823,218 customers.

Enugu Disco overbilled a total of 1,011,402 customers for N11.9bn over the nine-month period, while Benin Disco overbilled 754,849 customers, underestimating billing by N10.5bn.Because the months of July, August, and September were not included in the NERC report, Eko Disco overbilled 371,828 customers under the estimated billing category between January and June 2023.

To the tune of N14.13 billion, it overbilled these customers.

During the period of January to September of last year, Ibadan Disco overcharged 143,465 customers, making N333.68 million, while Jos Disco overbilled 1,264,537 customers, totaling N13.3 billion.During the review period, Kaduna collected N1.14 billion from the overbilling of 126,071 power users under its franchise area, while Ikeja Disco overbilled 934,438 customers by N20.9 billion.

Between January and June, Kano Discos overcharged 71,120 customers by N196.97 million, while Port Harcourt Disco overcharged 605,621 customers by N14.2 billion.

However, the amount of overcharged customers in July, August, and September was not recorded.

As a result of the 11 power distribution companies’ noncompliance with the capping of estimated bills for unmetered customers, the power sector regulator announced on Saturday that it would deduct N10,505,286,072 from their annual allowed revenues during the next tariff review.NERC emphasised that non-compliance with the commission’s monthly energy caps was discovered in the power companies’ 2023 billing of unmetered customers in their various franchise areas.

The regulator frequently issues orders that set a maximum payment amount that an unmetered customer must make to the distribution company that supplies them with electricity.

NERC has ordered the power firms to continue this amount until the customer is metered by the distribution company.

The regulator said in its order, which was made public on Saturday, “The public may recall that the commission issued the order on Capping of Estimated Bills (Order No: NERC/197/2020) in 2020 and that the commission then issued monthly energy caps which aimed to align the estimated bills for unmetered customers with the measured consumption of metered customers on the same supply feeder.”

“The electricity distribution companies’ 2023 billing to unmetered customers was reviewed, and it was found that they were not following the commission’s monthly energy caps.

“NERC/2024/004-01 4 was the order that the commission issued on non-compliance with capping of estimated bills in response to this, and in an attempt to protect unmetered customers from arbitrary billing by Discos, in accordance with Section 34(1)(d) of the Electricity Act 2023.

The order requires discos to provide credit adjustments to all over-billed unmetered customers for the period of January to September 2023 by the March 2024 billing cycle, as stated in the statement.

The public notice states that discos must release the list of credit adjustment beneficiaries on their website and in two national dailies by March 31, 2024, at the latest.”iii)

Regulatory sanctions: During the next tariff review, the commission will deduct N10,505,286,072 from the annual allowed revenues of the 11 Discos in order to discourage future non-compliance with the commission-approved energy caps.”

Consumers of electricity across the country have persisted in complaining to power distribution companies in Nigeria about inflated estimated bills.However, eight Discos saw a rise in the quantity of customer complaints; Yola (+43.28 percent), Kano (+17.46 percent), and Port Harcourt (+16.05 percent) saw the biggest increases.

Regarding the nature of complaints, the report indicated that out of the 333,947 complaints that Discos received in 2023/Q3, “metering (57.31 percent), billing (12.88 percent), and service interruption (8.07 percent) were the most commonly reported issues.”

The combined number of complaints in these three categories during the quarter was over 78 percent. A resolution rate of 94.98 percent was achieved by resolving 317,179 of the 333,947 complaints that were received in 2023/Q3.

In the meantime, the commission has reiterated its dedication to consumer protection and regulatory compliance in the Nigerian electricity supply sector.

In the hopes that it would discourage the power companies from overcharging electricity users on estimated billing, consumers expressed optimism that the regulator overseeing the power sector would ensure the enforcement of this most recent sanction on Discos.

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