As the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) opened its Customer Complaints Forum Office in Asaba, Delta State on Tuesday, Managing Director/CEO, Benin Electricity Distribution Plc (BEDC) Mrs. Funke Osibodu has opined that the commissioning of the Asaba Customer Complaints Forum Office geared towards ensuring speedy resolution of electricity disputes will re-invigorate BEDC’s commitment to improve customer service standard in Delta state despite numerous challenges confronting distribution companies (discos) bordering on low power generation to the grid, metering gaps, transmission limitations, low payment culture and vandalization of power infrastructure, among others.
“The power sector is a value chain comprising of generation, transmission, distribution and ultimately the customer utilization. This implies a string of interdependency amongst the four tiers. Whilst the customer is king, he must pay for services rendered to him, in order to ensure that the entire value chain continues to provide good service.” remarked Mrs. Osibodu who was represented by the Executive Director, Commercial, Abu Ejoor .
The MD of BEDC further disclosed that BEDC has resolved about 128,000 complaints since inception till date, majority of them bordering on low supply and bill estimation complaints. She added that as part of efforts at resolving complaints on estimated billing and in order to assist customer self-manage and regulate their electricity consumption, BEDC has also introduced the billing calculator format.
This she explained, is for customers to estimate their potential billing from consumption adding “customers can thus calculate the installed electrical load in the customer’s premises in conjunction with available power supplied to produce an estimate of likely billing and use same to cross check the billing as well as manage the use of appliances that consume heavy load.”
In his welcome address, Commissioner, Consumer Affairs, NERC, Dr Moses A. Arigu, affirmed that the opening of the Customer Complaints Forum office could not have come at a better time than now that customers within BEDC network were facing myriad of challenges including safety issues, disconnection of communities, estimated billing issues.
Dr Arigu observed that even though BEDC holds a 30 per cent deficit in metering yet the implementation of its meter roll out plan in accordance with the performance agreement will inject an average of about 100,000 meters annually over the next five years thus closing the metering gap within the next three years based on the roll out plan.
He asserted that while the Commission has wound down the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) programme efforts were being made to ensure that the pace of metering continues using other schemes currently being reviewed.
While congratulating the newly appointed forum members, Arigu said the Customer Complaints Forum office was unique in terms of its unabridged disposition in dealing with issues from electricity customers within and around Asaba and BEDC coverage areas, and urged the members to approach their tasks with equity and patriotism in dealing with complaints.
“The growth and development of the electricity sector is a joint responsibility of the operators and the customers and so the establishment of a redress mechanism like the Customer Complaints forum would further promote such relationship, “he added.
In his remarks, Delta State Commissioner for Energy, Barrister Newworld Safugha who represented the Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa and Senator James Manager, Chairman, Senate Committee on Solid Minerals said the danger of illegal connections and overbilling were of concern to the government requesting the forum should address them.
He noted that the Delta State government had through his ministry created a platform for billing resolution on which several issues were resolved and thanked BEDC for co-operating with the resolution process.
The Asaba Customer Complaints Forum office members sworn at the occasion were; Engr Oghene-Ovie Ukochovwera, representing Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Abraham Ifode from Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mr Solomon Ejenavi Akperiojire from the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr Peter Okolie of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and Mr Ugochukwu Santino Ozah from the NGO sub sector.