PHCN: Outrageous Billings in Anambra State

According to a report by Intersociety Nigeria, The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) – the Federal Government-controlled electricity provider – and all its local business units in Anambra State particularly Onitsha, Ogbaru, Ogidi, Nnewi and Ekwulobia Business Units are corruptly and bribery disposed. They are also very incompetent and fraudulent.
Within Onitsha and Ogbaru Business Units, bribery and extortion are a routine. They institutionalize roguish billing system by abandoning meter-based reading to outright imposition of N5, 000 flat rates for every flat apartment in their Business Units, not minding that 98% of the affected flat apartments operate with consumer-meters. They also create artificial scarcity for new digital pre-paid meters and deny consumers access to them. Few ones they made available were fraudulently sold to the highest bidders with their proceeds unknown to the official PHCN financial records. Pre-paid electricity meters make consumers to pay accurately what they consume and eliminate substantially bribery and extortion against consumers by corrupt PHCN officials. They also make the PHCN officials solely responsible for round-the-clock management and maintenance of distribution transformers and save the consumers from the agony of shouldering same responsibilities owning to near-total abdication of same by the PHCN officials.

But the said officials prefer the use and retention of analog meters, which reading they refuse to pick, and outrageously estimated billing system because of their proneness to sharp practices such as extortions arising from power line disconnection owing to non-payment, late payment or part-payment of outrageously imposed bills, and replacement, reinforcement and maintenance of distribution transformers and their accessories, which the Onitsha, Ogidi and Ogbaru Business Units’ power consumers are forced to bear. Out of every five new distribution transformers installed in the said areas, four are installed at the expense of the consumers; out of every five existing distribution transformers serviced, five are serviced at the expense of the consumers; and out of every accessory replaced, it is the consumers that bear the cost, yet statutory overheads for such works are collected and pocketed by the Business Units’ business managers and their Managers in-charge of Distributions at every month end. It may most likely be correct to say that 60% of outrageous sums generated at every month end in Onitsha, Ogidi and Ogbaru Business Units from the imposed N5, 000 flat rates for every flat apartment is not remitted into the official PHCN accounts. In all, the case of new 250KVA Abazuonu distribution transformer located at Iyiowa Layout, Ogbaru LGA, Anambra State, installed in June 2012 by its consumers at a whopping cost of over N2Million is a case in point. The transformer brought by a member of the House of Reps in 2011, from Federal Constituency Project, without its accessories had to be installed by the affected consumers when the top officials of the Onitsha and Ogbaru PHCN turned down the consumers’ request and directed them to a NEPA contractor after being forced to write and sign an under-taking-assisting NEPA (PHCN). When the transformer developed multiple faults in September 2012, two months after its installation owing to shoddy jobs done on it, the Ogbaru Business Unit through its SMD (Senior Manager for Distribution) again referred the consumers to another NEPA contractor, GAESHON ELECTROTECT NIG. LTD. of No.1B Gayius Ezeh Street, Awada by Onitsha-Owerri Road, Obosi, Anambra State, who gave them another bill of N463.000 for its repair. The Business Manager for the Ogbaru Business Unit, carved out of Onitsha Business Unit recently, is Engineer E.C. Anyaelesi. Instances such as the foregoing abound in the PHCN establishments in Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria.

Recommendations: The authorities of the PHCN and the Federal Ministry of Power as well as the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission should beam their searchlights on perceived criminal conducts of their subordinates in Anambra State particularly their Onitsha and Ogbaru Business Units so as to address the misconducts complained of, especially the criminal imposition of outrageous bills outside existing consumer-meters and subsisting tariffs; and abdication of their statutory duties of installing and maintaining distribution transformers. The Peter Obi government in Anambra State should, as a matter as of immediacy and public importance, expertly formulate far reaching policies towards the sound management of its motley of armed vigilante groups and tens of thousands of illicit small arms and other dangerous weapons in their possessions. Other related issues so raised should be tackled as well.

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