By Levinus Nwabughiogu
House of Representatives Wednesday passed to second reading a bill to make electricity distribution companies, DISCOs, reimburse consumers who incur expenses in the acquisition of power equipment.
The bill titled “A bill for an Act to Amend the Electric Power Sector Reforms Act to Provide for Electricity Distribution Companies to Reimburse any Power Consumer who incurs expenses in the Acquisition and Maintenance of Electricity Apparatus Connected to the National Grid in Nigeria; and for Related Matters (HB. 287)” is being sponsored by Hon Ben Rollands Igbakpa who represents Ethiope Federal Constituency of Delta State.
Giving the synopsis of the bill in a press briefing, Igbakpa said that when passed into law, the Bill will protect the unsuspecting electricity consumer from undue exploitation by some unscrupulous Discos “who with impunity rip the consumers of their resources by the deliberate abdication of their responsibilities while at the same time have free access to incentive or subsidy from government’s Power Consumer Assistance Fund.”
He added: “It is not the responsibility of electricity customer or community to buy, replace or repair electricity apparatus such as transformers, poles, cables and related equipment used in the supply of electricity. In other words, faulty transformers are supposed to be replaced by the DisCo within forty-eight hours of the official complaint being made. The DisCo is responsible for such replacements or repairs.
“However, if the DisCo is unable to speedily replace the faulty transformer, residents or consumers may go into discussions with the company and agree on the terms of the replacement of the affected transformer if they so wish to assume the responsibility of the company.
“The caveat is that consumers that intend to go into such discussions with the DisCo are to bear in mind that any equipment purchased and integrated into the electricity system or grid automatically becomes the property of the DisCo.
“This over the years has worked injustice to consumers who due to the negligence of the DisCo to undertake their task timeously whenever the need arises, especially as they have surreptitiously abdicated that task at the expenses of consumers, who now have to spend huge resources without any template for reimbursement.
“At the same time, the DisCos have developed established procedures for connections and disconnections of specific customers who owe electricity bills, without giving them a reasonable time to pay their bills, and or take into account the huge expenses such electricity consumers may have incurred in the past in lieu of the DisCo in the acquisition and maintenance of electrical apparatus connected to the National grid without compensated.
“To address the continued negligence on the part of Disco to speedily respond to electricity distribution complaints and replace any faulty electricity apparatus as well as ensure that when consumer undertakes such tasks they are adequately reimbursed and compensated, this Bill seeks to amend the Electric Power Sector Reform Act to provide for the Electricity Distribution Company to reimburse any power consumer who incurs expenses in the acquisition and maintenance of electrical apparatus connected to the national grid.”