When the Head, Consumer Services of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED), Dr Godwin Orovwiroro recently told a gathering of stakeholders that the company plans to deliver 24 hour-power supply in Port Harcourt, not many of his listeners were moved.
To them, 24-hour services is a tall dream and a feat not realizable in the near future going by the firm’s current performance across the four states of Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa, where it covers.
A consumer retorted, “how can you talk of 24-hour supply when we hardly see the light? According to him, “for over three weeks, residents of my area have not seen light. Before then, we suffered low current supply for days and now they are talking about 24 hours light, what magic will they apply?
Orovwiroro, who was educating consumers on their rights during a consumers forum held a forthnight ago at Ernest Ikoli Press Centre in Port Harcourt, said as consumers you have right to contest unfair billing, do not have to pay to replace any faulty facility of the distribution company such as poles and transformers.
He explained further that inspite of the efforts of the company, it is confronted by myriad of challenges as inability of consumers to pay their bills promptly, vandalism, energy theft, attack on company staff, amongst others.
He said the aim of the forum which targeted professionals was to brainstorm and to find solutions affecting supply of electricity in the area.
Some participants were surprised that consumers do not have to pay for the replacement of failed equipment of PHED when out there and the field, consumers were being made to contribute money to pay for bad transformers, wires and other accessories. They accused staff of PHED of asking innocent consumers to pay.
A youngman, Chituru Ibe, said in Etche, consumers were asked to contribute fund to buy transformers and also for installing same.
“The entire people using the transformer were asked to buy transformer. It is common in many places, does it mean such money only gets into the pocket of the fraudulent staff instead of the company’s account?
The head consumer services, however fought back, he accused desperate power consumers of attempting to corrupt PHED’s staff as a way of getting back supply in event of any outage.
Noting that consumers should be patient as the company would rectify and replace faulty equipment, he urged consumers not to be desperate and attempt to lobby or bribe the company’s field staff.
Orovwiroro urged consumers to report any company staff demanding money to replace any faulty equipment as appropriate sanction awaits such workers.
The implication is that those light committees which gather consumers within their various domains to contribute money running into millions or several hundreds of thousands of Naira are fraudsters.
On several occasion, the light committees who always have sweet and persuasive story would brain wash the gullible neighbours into paying so that they would get supply because the PHED workers would not attend to their issues as quickly as they need it done.
This story of not paying for faulty facilities by consumers has been emphasized by the government but, in practice, it has persisted. It requires a strict monitoring by PHED to arrest and deal with erring field engineers who benefit from the crime.
Some consumers are always desperate and in a hurry to get their disrupted electricity supply restored, hence fall prey to the antics of the fraudulent people who are said to have their members amongst PHED staff, community leaders, power or electricity committees and atimes landlords. It is only by dealing with the culprits that the trend will be checked.
PHED would be doing itself a great deal of good if those erring staff are dealt with. Apart from defrauding the poor consumers, they give the firm a serious image problem.
The issue of over billing or crazy billing was also one of the issues in contention. Consumers who do not have the prepaid meters always cry of crazy billing since there can never be any acceptable measurement of services enjoyed other than the meter.
The failure of PHED to provide customers or consumers with prepaid meters helped in compounding the situation. In spite of the directive from the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to DISCOS across the nation to provide meters to consumers, some DISCOS do not appear to observe the directive.
While few DISCOs are providing prepaid meters, PHED cannot be said to be serious on this issue of meters, if you remember its promise of providing 250,000 prepaid meters since last year.
The company has been giving one excuse after the other thereby dashing the hope of consumers. Some consumers claim to have paid long ago but that the company was yet to provide them with the meters.
They believe that absence of the prepaid meters was for unfair billing system to keep flourishing.
A resident of Ojoto street in Diobu Ugo Henry, said, “the PHED staff merely come to the yard, look around and fix any amount of bill the staff wants you to pay.
“You just begin to wonder how he determines what volume of energy you consumed without meters. I have never seen a situation where a party to the bargain would demand high price for services that are hardly there”.
In search of improved service delivery, NERC should give ultimatum to DISCOs to meter all and sanction erring DISCOs. The era of crazy billing should end. Apart from being suspicious, it does not reflect any modern business transaction. Only the NERC can save the poor electricity consumers from the DISCOs who are out to make profit not minding the standard of services it renders to its customers.
Though, the popular belief is that estimated billing is targeted against consumers, staff of PHED believe that ironically, it is the firm that loses under estimated billing because most times, customers were billed below what they enjoyed.
According to them, most consumers who get prepaid meters after agitations, turn round to complain that the meters read faster and plead they be reverted to the estimated billing because it is lower.
Which ever side that wins the argument is immaterial as what is important is for meters to be provided consumers. This is the standard for measuring energy consumption world over. If all customers are metered, there would be more confidence that bills issued to them are transparent and commensurate with the energy consumed.
BUA Group, A’Ibom Sign MoU For Refinery’s Access Road
Bua Group has signed a memorandum of understanding, (MoU), with Akwa Ibom State Government, and the host communities in Ibeno Local Government Area, for the construction of access road to the proposed Bua Refinery and Petrochemical plant site in Ibeno, last week.
Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Power and Petroleum Development, Dr. John Etim, who presided over the signing of the MoU, applauded BUA for their commitment to the project, prompt documentation and the preparation of the site towards the construction of the refinery.
Etim said that the refinery project will bridge the gap between host communities and Akwa Ibom State, thereby bringing about more developments in the oil and gas sector of the State.
The Commissioner called on all parties concerned to be committed to the terms of agreement and to ensure that peace dominates their relationship, while appealing to the host communities to protect the facilities which is now in their custody
“The refinery and petrochemical project is in line with the Governor’s vision to industrialise the State, develop local capacity in key industries where value can be added and raw materials sourced locally.”
Speaking shortly after the MoU signing, the Chairman of Ibeno local government, Williams Mkpa, expressed delight over the development, describing it as a giant stride in the industrialisation vision of the Akwa Ibom State Government.
The paramount ruler of the area, Owong Effiong Archianga, assured the company of his people’s unalloyed support and cooperation to see to the actualisation of the project.
CSO Urges Oil Communities To Challenge PIA In Court
A Civil Society Organisation, Policy Alert, has faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s signing of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, urging communities to test the provisions of the Act before the courts.
President Buhari had signed the erstwhile Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, into law last Monday amidst protests from community groups and many other stakeholders that the Bill do not adequately cover the rights and interests of the host communities.
In a statement signed by its Communications and Stakeholders Engagement Officer, Mrs. Nneka Luke-Ndumere, Policy Alert, which is working for economic and ecological justice, described the presidential assent to the PIB as “grossly insensitive and problematic.
“It is sad that the bill has been assented to in the most controversial manner despite its many obvious flaws and its rejection by many stakeholders,” the statement read.
It added: “For example, the controversial provision for a direct payment of 30 percent profit oil and profit gas to the Frontier Exploration Fund potentially shortchanges the oil producing states and local governments of some of its thirteen percent derivation as it bypasses the requirement in section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which provides that all revenues be channeled through the federation account.
“This is most unfair, viewed against the ceding of only three percent of previous years’ operating expenses to the Host Communities Development Trust Fund and the punitive provision to charge costs of any damage to facilities against the community’s Fund, among other obnoxious provisions.
“That Mr. President has gone ahead to give assent to these vexing provisions only reinforces the politics of exclusion and expropriation that has for long characterised the relationship between the Nigerian state and the oil producing communities.
“We are also concerned that the host communities’ component of the legislation flies in the face of one of its stated objectives to address tensions between host communities and companies as it has all the ingredients for escalating rather than abating such conflicts.
“At a time when fossil fuel investments are being deprioritised elsewhere as a result of the global energy transition, it is unfortunate that this Act failed to provide a bridge between the current era of fossil fuel dependency and the low-carbon energy future that Nigeria aspires to within the framework of government’s much vaunted commitments under the Paris Agreement.”
The statement also said: “Granted, the new legal framework introduces some predictability and clarity to the governance and fiscal arrangements in the oil and gas industry. We are also not oblivious to certain clauses that respond to some of our earlier demands, such as those providing that the Board of Trustees of the Host Communities Development Trust will now be determined in consultation with the host communities, with membership drawn from community members. But that is just as far as it goes.
“As a tool for improved benefit sharing to host communities, the Act falls flat on its face. It actually ridicules the exertions of the host communities and advocacy groups that have clamoured over the years for a law that yields some space for participation, direct socio-economic benefits and environmental remediation for oil-rich communities.
“The theatre of action will now have to move to the communities and the courts of law. As implementation of the Act gets underway over the next 12 months, we urge host communities and civil society groups to begin to seek interpretation of some of its more controversial provisions before the courts.”
Kyari Tasks Greenfield Refinery On Fuel Importation
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, has charged members of the Board of the NNPC Greenfield Refinery Limited (NGRL), to explore all available options to bring an end to the current challenge of petroleum products importation.
Mallam Kyari gave the charge Thursday while inaugurating the Board of the newly incorporated subsidiary of the Corporation, NNPC Greenfield Refinery Limited (NGRL), at the NNPC Towers, Abuja.
The NNPC Greenfield Refinery Limited is a subsidiary of the Corporation set up in December 2020 with a mandate to oversee the establishment and operation of new refineries.
The GMD, who is also the Chairman of the NGRL Board, challenged members of the Board to focus on profitability in order to remain afloat and avoid liquidation.
“As a business, this is a big opportunity for us and this company’s balance sheet must change positively. Going forward, with the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), I can tell you that if you continue to post negative for three years, you are out. So, there is really no excuse”, Mallam Kyari stated.
He urged the Board and Management Team of the new company to set up a proper structure with the required skills, technology and financing to drive the company’s operations, adding that he was optimistic that the company would be able to achieve its mandate.
“Our company must grow and we can’t do well except we are able to process our production whether it is the liquid or gas. If we don’t monetise it then we have done nothing. This is really a new chapter and we are committed to making it work,” he said.
The NNPC helmsman stated that all the Corporation’s initiatives in the areas of new refineries, condensate refineries and equity acquisition in credible private refineries were geared towards ensuring energy security for the country.
In his remarks, the Alternate Chairman of the Board and Group Executive Director, Refinery and Petrochemicals, Engr. Mustapha Yakubu, declared that the operations of the company would be guided by the principles of cost effectiveness in line with the new Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), noting that profitability would be the key focus.
Speaking in similar vein, the Group General Manager, Greenfield Refineries and Project Division (GRPD) and Managing Director of the NGRL, Engr. Bege Talson, disclosed that the Division was working with third party investors to establish greenfield, modular and condensate refineries with a combined capacity of 250,000barrels per stream day (bpsd).
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