*special task force on the way 

Miffed by the spate of electricity theft and illegal connections, Electricity Distribution companies (DISCOs) in Nigeria are putting together stringent measures to deter some consumers of power supply from illegal connections and electricity theft.  According to them the days of illegal connection of electricity and fraudulent activities by consumers will soon be over.

To overcome metering cloning and other forms of frauds against the electricity market, they said that apart from introducing the use of smart meters a special mobile marshals and task force will be recruited help monitor electricity consumers.

The Group Corporate Affair Manager, Eko Distribution Company Mr. Godwin Idemudia,  had said that his company has embark on programmes to check this fraudulent activities. Acccording to him this will include the use of smart meters to reduce incidents of fraudulent activities of consumers.

The Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC) has said that within five years, 43,000 prepaid meters have been tampered with by consumers out of  the 134,000 installed by the company.

This represents about 32 per cent of the total number of prepaid meters in use across areas covered by the electricity company. The Managing Director, IKEDC, Mr. Abiodun Ajifowobaje, had said that some costumers bypass their pre-paid meters when connecting high-power-consuming appliances from the meter, and connect them directly to power. He said those engaging in such practices had been paying less on power, while the bulk of the power they consume is not being paid for.

“When people do this, you hardly know because the meter will still be working and reading. We only get clues when we see from our projections that the amount paid by a consumer is continuously dropping for no justifiable reason. We pay such customers unannounced visit” the IKEDC boss said. The company said that this type of practices will soon be minimized.

This is coming as the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has announced that it is making some good progress in plans to deploy smart meter technology in the sector, as part of its efforts to overcome cloning of electricity meters and other forms of fraud in Nigeria’s electricity industry.

NERC said that it has taken delivery of a completed technical work it commissioned on regulation for smart metering and which will now allow it set up the appropriate framework for deployment of smart meters to distribution networks in the country.

It said that a number of the licensed electricity distribution companies in the sector have indicated their interest in deploying the technology in their networks, adding that the expected regulation will provide the supporting framework for such development in the sector.

Chairman of NERC, Dr. Sam Amadi stated recently that the draft regulation will be put out for public review and consideration before it is finalised and approved as a regulatory document for use in this regard.

“The Commission has also received completed technical work on the regulation on smart metering. This draft regulation is now slated for public consultation to enable operators and the general public review and comment on the regulation before it is finalised andapproved by the Commission,” Amadi said.

He further explained that, “This regulation will provide the framework for deployment of smart meters to protect the revenues of the distribution companies and help customers better manage their electricity consumption.

“Many of the distribution companies, in a bid to overcome metering cloning and other forms of frauds against the electricity market, are resorting to smart meter. This regulation will provide a supporting framework for smart metering in the Nigerian electricity market,” the NERC boss explained.

On the impact of electricity theft on the revenue of the sector, Amadi said: “I want to warn customers to stop engaging in criminal acts of stealing power. It is this sort of sabotage at the retail level that increases the commercial losses that increase tariff that consumers pay.”

He however requested electricity consumers’ devotion to doing the right things in the sector, and thus asked that extant acts of fraud in the sector be reported to the distribution companies.

“So, it is in the interest of consumers to report their neighbours who engage in such criminal activities to the distribution companies and the security forces.

By protecting electrical installations, we reduce the cost of electricity generation, transmission and distribution. And we benefit in terms of improved power supply and lower tariff,” Amadi added.

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