The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, EEDC, has blamed what it described as incidences of overbilling of its customers on “energy theft” and appealed to electricity consumers in the South East to assist the company to apprehend the perpetrators.
According to EEDC, energy theft is the major cause of the bloated bills, otherwise known as crazy bills. It said that “energy losses (theft) in Nigeria was about the highest in the world.” The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr Robert Dickerman made this known during a town hall meeting with EEDC customers in Enugu, weekend. Dickerman, explained that energy theft occurred when consumers who are not captured in the company’s users’ database plug onto the system and consume electricity not accounted for, adding that this often led to sudden rise in the quantum of electricity consumed in a particular neighbourhood or district, where such a theft occurred.
He said that rise in quantum of electricity consumed usually gave rise to crazy bills, pointing out that the situation would be reversed if consumers helped by alerting the EEDC promptly. “Help us to stop the practice; it is in everyone’s interest—both the company and consumers,” he said. Dickerman, an American who said he has worked in 25 other countries on electricity matters before coming to the country further said: “Most DISCOs are virtually bankrupt because we cannot collect all our tariffs. When a man suddenly starts manufacturing say pure water in your neighbourhood using the same power source as private, residential users in that neighbourhood, you must stop him or report such a person to us because if you do not, you are going to pay for the power he is consuming.
“It is the power he consumes illegally that is often passed over to you as crazy bills. Certainly, the system would record any rise in the quantity of power consumed but if the consumer cannot be traced because he has consumed the power illegally, the burden must be borne by you who are captured in the users’ database. That is what results in crazy bills and that is why you must be vigilant to prevent energy theft in your neighbourhood or district.” Dickerman also stressed that only 700,000 consumers were in EEDC’s database in the South East pointing out that the figure was a far cry from the actual number of consumers in the five states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo which make up the South East. He, however said that the company had deployed enumerators to update the figure and enable it have a more accurate number of consumers as well as how to attend to their needs and minimise energy theft, which had not made EEDC lose money but led to consumers enjoying poor services. Commenting on estimated billing, Dickerman said it was still happening because there are not yet enough meters to go round every household and or commercial place in the zone even as the company had procured some meters, which were now being sold at N39,000 for the single phase and N68,000 for the three-phase meter. “You are as worried as we are. Believe you me, estimated billing does not benefit us financially or professionally. But, while the sale of the cap meter is going on now, it is not compulsory,” he added. Meanwhile, consumers asked a lot of burning questions regarding EEDC’s services. However, in answers to most of the questions, which bordered on crazy billing, slow response to customers’ complaints, poor customer relations and lackluster attitude of some EEDC staff to work, among others, Head, Customer Service, Ijeoma Ogudebe, assured consumers of a new era in the way EEDC runs.