NERC has been pushing all distribution companies in Nigeria to implement and complete their enumeration programs with a view to closing this out by March 31st 2019, this means that if upon conclusion the gathered data can be validated then the country would have achieved clear data on electricity consumption for the first time in recent memory.
Nigeria has invested severally in data gathering programs from BVN, national drivers license, NIN, sim card registration and now we have the drive for data on electricity users. But i am afraid that once again we may have missed the true value for data gathering and implementation towards nation building and a stronger economy.
A part of the problem
Debt has bugged down the power sector even before it was unbundled and that debt will continue to stand in the way of sector growth until there is a clear road map on debt validation, recovery and collection which is acceptable to all concerned.
A lot of electricity users today are either paying up debt for energy which they did not consume or will move to their next apartments bequething debts to the next occupant. This will continue because we do not have a viable home ownership model in Nigeria and our credit check system is near non-existent.
What can be done to fix this?
While data being gathered for enumeration is tied to the homes and businesses being supplied, the actual users should be identified and tied to their current electricity consumption account.
Let’s assume that Mr Okeke resides at number 5 Okonkwo Street with account number 54321 and Okeke is served by DISCO X. Okeke can be identified uniquely by his NIN while that also becomes his electricity account number on the grid, if Okeke has a N100,000 debt on his account his service provider should not be worried if Okeke plans to make an exit from his location or even move to a new service provider. A simple correspondence with DISCO X by Mr Okeke will inform DISCO X that Okeke would be transiting to an area managed by DISCO Q, DISCO X will share this notification with NERC (exchange) who also notifies DISCO Q in real time. At the point of arrival under the DISCO Q network, all Okeke has to do is to also walk into an office to register his presence, his debt from his last residence will be moved to his new abode while Q even makes a commission for collecting on behalf of X. Some may ask what will happen if the gentleman decided to move without notifying his service provider, that is very simple, he should not be allowed services at his next location without evidence of his past location, a simple regulation should put that into effect.
The next customer who moves into Mr Okeke’s former home would not be burdened by a debt which he or she did not accumulate, customer apathy would be out the window while the industry becomes more accountable.
A partnership between two key agencies of government like NERC and NIMC to identify electricity users and employ their data to guide collections will not only increase the viability of the market, with credit tracking the financial sector can also build a strong credit model for Nigerians and so strengthen financial inclusion and credits in our system.
Lead Strategist at Spark