MORE STRINGENT SANCTIONS EMERGES FOR UNAUTHORISED ACCESS TO ELECTRICITY, METER TAMPERING AND BY-PASS
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has read the riot Act to electricity users who access electricity without proper authorization (also known as illegal connection), tampers with or by-pass its meters. This warning is as contained in the Commission’s Order-ORDER NO: NERC/REG/41/2017 issued recently. The Order is in accordance with the Commission’s responsibility under section 32 (1) (b) of Electric Power Sector Reform Act (“EPSRA”) and The Connection & Disconnection Procedures for Electricity Services (“CDPES”) Regulations of 2007.
The Connection & Disconnection Procedures for Electricity Services (“CDPES”) Regulations of 2007 has, in its Regulation 12 (1)(C), provided for the conditions for reconnecting previously disconnected customers on the ground of unauthorised connections to the distribution network. Under the said Regulation 12 (1)(C), the conditions are merely that such erring customer was merely required to formalize the electricity supply arrangements to the satisfaction of the DisCo and pay (or enter into an agreement for the payment of) an approved reconnection costs to the DisCo.
However, the Commission said in this newly issued Order that it has received complaints from DisCos and has also observed an increase in the incidents of unauthorised access to electricity and meter bypass by customers. Consequently, upon due consideration of the foregoing and the need to reduce unauthorised access to electricity supply by tampering and meter bypass; the Commission has now approved more stringent conditions for reconnecting unauthorised connections as contained in this new order.
The following are the provisions of the Order pertaining to the Customer:
- Reconnection Costs
With the coming into effect of this Order, any customer that gains unauthorised access to electricity by tampering or meter bypass shall be reconnected upon payment of the reconnection costs which shall be 50,000.00 for 1st-time offenders and 75,000.00 for subsequent offenders in Single Phase Residential category; 100,000.00 for 1st-time offenders and 150,000.00 for subsequent offenders in Three Phase Residential category; 50,000.00 for 1st-time offenders and 75,000.00 for subsequent offenders in Single Phase Commercial category; 100,000.00 for 1st-time offenders and 100,000.00 for subsequent offenders in Three Phase Commercial category; and 300% of the last authorised recorded monthly consumption for 1st-time offenders on Maximum Demand(MD) Meters and 450% of the last authorised recorded monthly consumption for subsequent offenders.
- Administrative Charges
In addition to the reconnection cost, erring customers will now have to pay administrative charges ranging from 1,500 to 15,000 depending on the customer’s category.
- Payment of back-bills
The Commission further provides that a customer that gains access to electricity by tampering or meter bypass shall, in addition to paying for the reconnection costs and administrative charges, be liable to pay for the loss of revenue by the DisCo for the unauthorised consumption by paying back-bills.
For this purpose, the Commission, in bullet 3 of the Order, authorised DisCos to back-bill customers who gain unauthorised access to electricity. The rate of such back-bill will be the prevailing tariff of the customer for the established period of the unauthorised access.
On the flip side, the following are expected of all DisCos in respect of reconnection of erring customers:
There is a responsibility on all DisCos to forthwith file with the Commission a monthly report of all cases of unauthorised access.
- Delayed reconnection costs
Going forward, DisCos shall be liable to pay customers ‘delayed reconnection costs’ if they fail to reconnect the customer within 48 hours of the customers’ payment of reconnection costs and administrative charges for unauthorised access to electricity in accordance with Regulation of 11 of CDPES.
Similarly, DisCos will also be liable to pay customers delayed reconnection costs where the customer was unjustifiably disconnected.
By virtue of the Order, delayed reconnection costs shall be 1,000.00 for residential grid; 1,500.00 for Commercial grid; 2,000.00 for Industrial grid; and 2,000.00 for Special grid per day.
Illegal connection, tampering with or bypass of meter are some of the illicit ways that Nigerians consume electricity. This usually transmits to underpayment or non-payment for the electricity consumed.
It’s a no brainer that the various DisCos are in business and asides providing essential services, they also need to make profit. While these erring customers consider illegal connection, tampering with or bypass of meter as a way of saving cost, they do not realize that dissipating the resources in this manner comes back to bite the citizens in the butt. This is because the DisCos, having to pay for every kilowatt being supplied to them, may have resulted to estimated bills to ensure they make sufficient fund to pay for the consumed megawatts. This estimated billing has, in no doubt, affected both the erring and innocent customers.
it is believed that if this new Order is properly implemented, it will deter consumers from illegally dealing with electricity.
The message in this Order is clear: Erring customers… Watch out! The law is coming after you!!