Ogun residents accuse IBEDC of extortion through estimated billing
Residents of Harmony Estate in the Ikangba area of Ijebu-Ode, Adatan area of Abeokuta, Lalu community in the Sagamu area and the Arobieye area in the Ado-Odo-Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State, have accused the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company of extorting them through the estimated billing method.
The residents of the different communities, while speaking to PUNCH Metro in separate interviews, requested prepaid meters, saying they needed to be in control of their electrical consumption and charges because the bills being served them by the IBEDC did not reflect their actual consumption.
A Kwara State indigene, Arinola Ibrahim, who resides in the Adatan area of Abeokuta, said the IBEDC was charging each household in the area over N7,000 monthly, whether there was power supply or not, adding that whenever the bills were settled, no receipt was issued.
Ibrahim said, “I am not on prepaid meter and I don’t have the analogue meter; that is the situation with those living in the rural areas. The IBEDC usually punishes us because it knows that we have no other choice; the IBEDC marketers always come to every household on a monthly basis to collect money from us without issuing bills and receipts whenever we pay.
“Whether there is light or not, they will bring a bill of over N7,000, and if we don’t pay, they will threaten to disconnect us. We had asked for meters but they said the analogue meters were not available again; when we asked for prepaid meters, they said they were no longer available. We usually pay cash to their marketers and don’t get any proof of payment.”
A civil servant, Olaolu Onabanjo, who said the IBEDC had yet to supply him the prepaid meter he paid for since 2015, added that his estate would have been in darkness if not for a good Samaritan, who assisted the residents in powering the estate with his company’s transformer.
“A lot of people, who paid for prepaid meters, have yet to get any meter from the IBEDC. I personally paid for a prepaid meter since April 2015, and I have yet to get it. I paid N47,000 into the IBEDC’s account, but I was issued with a receipt for N37,000. When I asked for the balance of N10,000, the officials gave me an excuse.
“I had to accept what they did because I was in dire need of the meter as I was tired of the estimated billing system. The IBEDC didn’t give us prepaid meters or poles, yet they come every month to collect money for power supply that is not regular. In a month, they can supply power for only four times, and when the power is on, it does not last for an hour.
“We also wrote to the IBEDC to give us a transformer, but they never supplied it. A private company in the area heard about our request for a transformer and advised that instead of donating money to buy a transformer, we should use the money to by poles and wires and connected us to its transformer. If not for it, we would have been in darkness. We have spent almost N2m on erecting poles and connecting wires to the transformer.”
Another customer, Sulaimon Oke, while lamenting that the IBEDC had neglected the Arobieye community, said immediately the firm realised that the residents had connected to a transformer donated by the Winners Chapel to the community, it sent its marketers to issue bills and threaten to disconnect the customers if they did not pay on time.
Oke said, “They abandoned us when we needed a transformer; when the Winners Chapel donated a transformer to the community, they never assisted us with the poles, wires and the service cable to connect to the transformer. Community members spent over N4m to buy poles and wires to get connected.
“But, what is painful the most is that the IBEDC waited for us to put everything in order only to start charging us for electricity almost immediately after we connected to the transformer. The marketer didn’t give us any account to pay into; all he said was that he was going to collect cash from us and was going to send people to disconnect us if we didn’t pay.”
A businessman, Philip Dada, who alleged that the IBEDC officials were using fake accounts to defraud people, said when he went to verify the authenticity of the accounts at the customer service unit of the firm, he discovered that the accounts were not registered on the company’s system.
Dada said, “This issue of fake accounts has caused problems, because the people who thought that they had been paying to the IBEDC suddenly realised that they were paying into fake accounts when the officials threatened to disconnect them.
“I personally took these accounts: Senior Adeniyi: 18/56/31/8423-01; Closely Ajibola: 14/44/01/2222-01; and Matomi Ejejesi: 18/56/60094-01 to their customer service unit for verification and what I was told was that the accounts were not registered on the system.”
PUNCH Metro learnt that a human rights organisation, the Balance Measures Impact Initiative, had requested the cancellation of the accumulated electrical bills because it had discovered that the IBEDC marketers were allegedly using the fake accounts to extort customers through the estimated billing method.
The Ogun State Chairman, BMII, Taiwo Ismail, said a feasibility study commissioned by the NGO had revealed that the IBEDC marketers had allegedly swindled customers in the state to the tune of over N1bn.
Ismail stated, “The major reason that the IBEDC is reluctant to supply prepaid meters is because it uses the estimated billing method to extort us in Ogun State. The firm has divided its customers into two: the ones who are usually issued with electrical bills; and the ones that don’t have meters, and as a result, the marketers collect cash from because they don’t give them bills.
“We have investigated and discovered that some of the accounts that the IBEDC marketers claimed that they pay money into after receiving cash from the customers are fake. When the marketers receive the money, they refuse to remit it into the IBEDC’s authentic accounts; and in a bid to meet their targets, they go about imposing outrageous estimated bills on those who don’t have meters. These marketers have connived with people at the top management of the IBEDC to defraud the people.
“A feasibility study we commissioned on the amount that these marketers have swindled us reveals over N1bn; we have had several meetings with the IBEDC officials and they promised to investigate and correct the anomaly, but nothing has been done. What we want is for the IBEDC to give us prepaid meters for free and cancel the accumulated debts reflecting on our bills, because most of us have settled them.
“We have given the IBEDC a list of areas across the local governments in Ogun State where their marketers are exploiting the customers but they have done nothing about it. The firm is asking people to pay N5,000 to get prepaid meters when the government said they are free.”
The Regional Communications Officer, IBEDC, Ogun State, Ayodeji Bada, when contacted, said the firm was using the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission-approved average cluster billing methodology to calculate how much customers pay, adding that over 106 companies had been approved to bring in prepaid meters into the country.
Bada stated, “We are using the approved NERC average cluster billing methodology to do the billing. But the unfortunate thing is that a consumer’s consumption in two hours, in some instances, may be more than what is consumed in one week. This is because when there is power supply, the consumers will put on their television and pumping machines, press their clothes and use electric cookers at the same time.
“We have also observed that in some locations, out of 20 houses, those that usually have bills are not more than 15; so, others usually connect illegally at night and disconnect in the morning. So, the electrical charges in this case are usually paid by those who are billed and not those that connect illegally. But, we are going on with an exercise called: ‘Access and Customer Enumeration’ to ascertain the number of customers on our database and capture those who are not, so that we can solve all the problems of leakages and high billing.
“On the prepaid meter issue, we don’t produce it in this country; prepaid meters are imported. Presently, we are going on with the free meter rollout to our customers and hopefully by April, the NERC-approved metering scheme will commence, because over 106 companies have been approved to bring in prepaid meters instead of the limited ones we have had that are less than 10.”
Bada, who said the maintenance of the IBEDC’s installations was the sole responsibility of the company, added that customers should desist from paying anyone to repair its installations whenever they were faulty.
He stated, “We have said it times without number that the responsibility of maintaining, repairing and providing equipment is the responsibility of the IBEDC. We have been sensitising our customers all around that they should desist from giving people money.
“But, what we discovered is that it is the community leaders who usually ask their members to contribute money, because they believe that IBEDC doesn’t attend to them on time. We urge people to please report anyone demanding money from them to carry out their duties so that we can sanction them.”