Image: The author
On Tuesday, 27th of October, I met with Mrs Regina Adelokun, the Regional Communication Officer of IBEDC for Ogun State, in respect of my Letter in The PUNCH of Friday, the 23rd, and we spoke at length.
Eventually, we agreed to concede: I agreed to comply with as well as advocate their long-route letter-writing protocol, and she agreed to inform her superiors of my proposal to replace letter-writing with form-filling, especially since our people have lost faith in writing letters, even if such letters will not be thrown in their faces by whomever.
Besides, it will be difficult for a form obtained from an IBEDC Customer Care Unit to be rejected upon appropriate filling.
I therefore kept patience while IBEDC supposedly deliberated, and was therefore rather surprised with the reply of Ms Angela Olanrewaju in The PUNCH on Tuesday, 3rd of November. The root of the estimated billing problem is the IBEDC billing system which ensured (last I checked) that once your consumption is estimated once, it becomes nearly impossible for subsequent readings from your meter to be acknowledged and reconciled.
Rather than assure us that this billing system will be reviewed, Ms Olanrewaju whom I never met could not refrain from confidently narrating what I said and did in my two meetings with IBEDC officials. Well, here are the facts…
I did not introduce myself as an activist. The BM of Sagamu Business Hub condescendingly asked if I was “one of those activists” after he had asked if I had “power of attorney”; and I said yes, since I didn’t think it was a crime to be an activist, or that I should be dismissed or my concerns discarded for being an activist… I went there with my several bills/receipts and those of only one other person and not with bills of “several customers” as alleged.
I went there to tell them that their current, orthodox, treatment of estimated billing concerns was inadequate, if not failing. In fact I volunteered to run a pilot assessment of the prevalence of that epidemic. I did not merely go there to pitch “zero-billing policy” like I was some salesman. I stated expressly that I am a Medical Doctor by training, and did not need any favours, least of all a job.
Zero-billing was how I resolved my estimated bills last year, and I have tendered receipts to that effect. I paid nearly N50 000 in installments, in advance, at the cash points and obtained receipts; then I used up the credit while the billing system was “rectified” while I continued to pay the Fixed Charge and VAT each month.
This part of payment was conveniently left out in Ms Olanrewaju’s explanation. There is no corruption in using what one has paid for in advance however unorthodox it may be; and I did not lobby IBEDC to implement this.
But now that the cat is out of the bag, I wish to inform Nigerians that the facts of this case remain so, and attempts to ignore them and spin nonexistent tales will fail. Please inundate IBEDC with your letters of complaints, and give them reasonable time to resolve your concerns. Failing which, well, there are alternatives to dialogue, even as there are many ways to kill a cat.
What NERC regulations allow is for the consumer to forward his meter readings should the DISCO’s representative not be able to access the customer’s meter; or, if the customer cannot within a stipulated period, for the average of that individual customer’s previous consumptions be used. NERC does not approve, concerning metered customers, for some arbitrary, profit-oriented, ridiculous estimates across board, as we kept seeing!
To prevent further tale-spinning, NERC in its “Methodology for Estimated Billing 2012” states rather explicitly that: “The DISCO shall endeavour to read the meter, at least, once in three months and the estimated bills issued shall not amount to a figure in excess of the cumulative average of the customer’s consumption” and that “the Customer’s estimated electricity usage shall, under no circumstance, be arbitrarily inflated by the DISCO”.
In her prospicient wisdom, NERC further stipulates that “The Customers shall be billed based on the last actual reading obtained until another reading is established. Consequently, a reconciliation shall be carried out which may result in the crediting or debiting of the Customer.” Nowhere does NERC approve of ridiculous estimates for metered customers whatever fancy name they may be tagged; and this reconciliation as recommended by NERC has not been routinely done by IBEDC so that that woman I quoted in my earlier Letter has been estimated for 15 consecutive months!
This is the era of enlightenment. Facts are sacred. After all, a customer centric organization must keep records and utilise them for their customers’ benefit, and not ignore them to their customers’ chagrin; superior customer service does in fact dictate that I, for instance, not be estimated on 192 units or 242, while my cumulative average hovers closer to 120!
Ayokunle Ayk Adeleye, Sagamu
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