Nigeria’s electricity metering drive sabotaged by high import duty

Nigerians have long had a running battle with the country’s electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) for unjustified estimated billing system that sees customers most times paying far beyond their electricity consumption.

This billing system made possible by the country’s old postpaid meters became a reason for a Meter Assets Providers scheme kicked off in May 2019 and aimed at providing prepaid meters to electricity users. However, this has been criticised for falling short of expectation.

But the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors have said in a statement on Sunday that high import duty for meters and other hurdles are slowing the 2021 metering target of the Meter Asset Providers (MAP) regulation.

The DISCOs are calling on the Federal Government to intervene by finding a means to cut the duty on imported meters, to enable faster metering of customers towards ending the estimated billing regime.

Executive Director, Research and Advocacy at ANED, Sunday Oduntan, said some of the MAP companies have the capacity to install about 3,000 meters per day for the DISCOs if the meters were available.

In the first face of the MAP scheme, 1.023 million meters were supposed to be presented for testing to the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency which tests and certifies such meters, but only 273,000 meters were tested and certified in the period due to importation challenges.

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Oduntan said. “There should be zero percent import duty on meters. We must assist local meter manufacturers to bring in components duty-free until Ajaokuta Steel Company is ready. The high import duty at the ports is killing the power sector.

“When Customers are metered, they would be happy. Estimated billing is not good for the DISCOs revenue collection drive. While those importing meters are finding it hard because of the import duty, the local meter manufacturers are also finding it difficult to continue production because they have to pay import duty on at least seven different components which they import for use in producing the meters in Nigeria.”

The DISCOs association argues that the power firms cannot be blamed for the current slow process of providing meters to their customers as that role was alienated to the MAP companies since the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) implemented the MAP regulation in 2019 and gave permits to metering firms to provide and install the meters for DISCOs.

The DISCOs also said with the current import duty and other challenges befalling the implementation of MAP, the NERC order that DISCOs should provide meters for all electricity consumers by 2021 may not be realistic.

“On the part of the federal government, what has it done to ensure that the meters are available for them to be installed for the customers of the DISCOs? There is an urgent need for the Government to intervene so that there will be more meters available to be installed.”

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