If we want it; we should pay for it.
This was a strong contender for the title of this piece but I decided to move it to the first statement to allow the real issue take the title.
The power situation in Nigeria is a huge challenge that has a domino effect on so many other sectors that affect our economy. The cost of alternative power supply is one of the factors contributing to the high cost of doing business in Nigeria. However today I am not going to dwell on the technical issues but on the human side that the consumer must contribute as part of the solution.
We all want power supply throughout the day, we want to be able to watch our favourite programmes on TV, or turn on the fan or air conditional on a hot day, but are failing to pay the bills?
I was prompted to write this piece when I visited a neighbourhood very early one morning and a woman noted that her neighbours leave their lights on all through the night. I smiled and replied that it is because they don’t pay bills, she quickly understood that I meant that they by-passed the meter and she too confessed that she only does that at night and ask her kids to quickly reconnect to the meter once it way day break.
This particular woman or neighbourhood is not alone. Most households I know have various ways of gaming the system when it comes to billing of electricity consumption. Some do bypass the meter at night and weekends when they are sure of no surprise visit from members of the distribution company. Some adjust the meters, so it reads slowly, some have a separate wiring for their high consumption block while a few lighting points would be on the meter. We have a way of channelling our creativity towards the wrong things. The consumers are not alone in these acts by sometimes they are facilitated by officials of the distribution company.
Let’s leave out the morals and face the logic. If we want regular power supply and we are not willing to pay for it, where will the money to generate the power come from in the first place? We can see that we are a major part of the problem. I did confront someone about cheating the billing system and his reply was the owners of the distribution companies used stolen money to buy the companies so we are just taking our share.
Unwillingness to pay for rendered services is a systematic problem in Nigeria. We always find a way to cheat businesses till they are no longer capable of rendering the services that we need – and fold up contributing to the already alarming unemployment pool.
Paying for the electricity we consume is on its own a contribution to improving the power situation in Nigeria. This ensures that the distribution companies can pay the generating companies and also maintain facilities such as power lines, transformers, and other power installations. This in turn ensures we have reliable power supply to run our homes and businesses. Successfully running our businesses also means we can put food on the table for our family. The distribution companies would also have the funds to pay their workers who are also members of our communities and also need to put food on the table of their families.
Not to be taken as a solely consumers’ problem, the distribution companies also have to be creative in how they go about revenue generation. A large percentage of consumers not paying or underpaying their bills does not call for continuously raising the rates for the few who choose to do the right thing by paying their correct bills. Sincere customers should not the made to pay the price for both the inefficiencies of the distribution companies in ensuring that customers are paying for what they consume and the craftiness of the consumers who are gaming the system, let alone the corruption of the staff who aid these consumers.
Distribution companies can meter the transformers to know what a locale is consuming and trace the losses to individual houses, facilities, and installations. This would be a first step is unravelling the problem. Solving this problem requires a systematic and innovative approach and also investment in effective revenue collection.
On the part of the consumer, instead of gaming the system; consume what you can afford as doing otherwise would be, plainly put, stealing. If your contribution to the system is stealing then you cannot complain about the rot in the system and obviously you cannot not complain about lack of power to carryout your business.