Quite a number of electricity consumers do not go through the information embedded in their bill. Some find it difficult to understand or interpret the figures and lettering on the bill. There are several information embedded in a typical bill, some of which includes; customers account details, Payment history, billed month, billed units, meter readings (in the case where a customer has a functional meter), current billed amount, net arrears amidst others.
Recently, the most disturbing information on the bills of electricity consumers is the NET ARREARS. The net arrears on a customers account is the cumulative debt (in Naira) owed by the customer since such account was opened. A vast majority of consumers fail to clear their current bill in full, and this has lead to the emergence of huge outstanding debts.
In January 2016, a survey carried out by the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) showed that Nigerians pay less than 40 percent of the monthly charge given to them by their franchised distribution companies, meaning the remaining 60 percent becomes a part of their net arrears. From the consumers point of view, they alleged their various distribution company of wrongful bill estimation which many have tagged over-billing. Most of them are prone to say their net arrears are a result of over-billing, claiming that they make payment every month. These monthly payment are apparently insignificant to the monthly billed amount, and this has led to the accumulation of huge debts..
These outstanding debts on a long run amount to huge figures, running into hundreds of thousands and on some cases, running into few millions of Naira. The funny trend is that if some of the premises owing such huge debt are valued, it would not be up to the net arrears on their bill. This is predominantly witnessed in Rural and Sub-Urban settlements.
In previous years, the defunct Nigeria Electric Power Authority were said to come up with bail out plans, during which customers are giving the privilege to pay a percentage of their outstanding debts and in-turn the total outstanding is wiped off. As it stands presently, It would be a wide goose chase (not impossible though) for consumers to expect such incentives from their franchised “PRIVATE” distribution companies. As regards this, the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company recently debunked rumours that the company or staffs of the company are involved in clearing outstanding debts on customers bill with the payment of N3,000. IBEDC clearly stated that its a case of misinformation.
In respect to this, these huge debts have given consumers sleepless nights as well as the DisCos. A vast returns of investments made by the distribution companies are tied up as figures on customers bills. This is fast becoming a worrisome trend as some of the investors had predicted an imminent collapse of the power sector without the assistance and counterpart funding of the government. DisCos remittance to market operators is on the decline.
In an attempt by the DisCos in recovering these debts- some of which were inherited from the defunct NEPA, most of them are using the principle of debt migration and shedding. What this implies to the DisCos is that, a functional meter (usually prepaid meter PPM) is given to the customer, then his outstanding debts are migrated (moved) into the PPM and shed into monthly installment over a period of months. In the case whereby the customer is given credit meters, the customer is made to clear a huge portion if not all of his debts before getting the meter. To the customer, what this simply implies is that, his distribution company is giving him an assurance that henceforth his billing would not be estimated (over-billing) only if he agrees to clear his previous estimated billing in installments or at once.
In summary, As a customer, never think lightly of your net arrears, it is returns of investments, and know that your are indebted to someone (or group of persons as the case maybe) and no longer “the state”. So your creditor can come calling for his funds anytime soon. Pay attention to every detail on your bill, if you notice or feel that what you are being estimated is not in any way a true reflection of your actual consumption, instead of lack of concern which would later amount to huge debts, just lay an official complaint to the office of your franchised distribution company. There are several measures set in place to handle such complaints. In so doing you just might be escaping from the cold hands of debts.