Prepaid Meters: Finance, corruption reasons for non-patronage of local manufacturers – Expert

An indigenous meter manufacturer, Mr Atilade Bolarinwa, on Monday listed finance, technical partner influence and corruption as major reasons why Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) were not patronising made-in-Nigeria meters.

Bolarinwa, who is the Vice-Chairman of Unistar Hi-teck System Ltd., an indigenous meter manufacturing company, made the assertion in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

He explained that indigenous meter manufacturers did not give credit facilities to DISCOs as a result of the hostile Nigerian business environment.

The manufacturer, however, said that the DISCOs get credit facilities from foreign countries, while local manufacturers refused to grant them such facility.

“Secondly, most of the distribution companies have technical partners which maybe Korean or Indian, and who use their influence to get meters for them.

“So, when we talk about patriotism, it is expected that Nigerians should be patriotic but in the face of corruption and inducement, most Nigerians will throw away anything about patriotism.

“The technical partners want the meters of their countries to be in Nigerian markets and will bend over backwards to ensure this,’’ Bolarinwa alleged.

He said the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had given the sector two means of financing of meters for installation — the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) and DISCOs finance.

“As at the last count, CAPMI finance has done 62 per cent of adding to metering while DISCO finance hit 38 per cent.

“It is on record that CAPMI finance in which consumers pay in advance for meters is what is really financing metering and not DISCO financing.

“Outside these two areas, I don’t know if there is any other ulterior motive. If you remove these two, they have no reason not to patronise us,’’ the local manufacturer said.

The vice-chairman also lamented corruption in Nigeria and urged the Federal Government to sanitise all sectors of the economy.

“Nigerians are so corrupt and everybody knows. Our judiciary system is not helping matters.

“If somebody misbehaves, he can subvert the law. Either the judge or lawyer will help him to postpone or frustrate judgment.

“In that situation, there is a limit to what you can do,’’ Bolarinwa said.

He regretted that some consumers preferred not to use prepaid meters because they were used to settling the distribution company’s staff every month when their bills were brought.

“The way this is affecting us is that some consumers don’t want the prepaid meter, even when they have paid for it, they may not want it installed.

“Then if you look at it from the other side, the DISCOs too prefer not to install because of what they derive in estimated billing.

“They know that once they issue the prepaid meter, there will be no room for estimated billing again.

“So, it is a question of how well we can be patriotic, how well we can fight corruption and how well we can enforce the installation,’’ Bolarinwa said.

The vice-chairman argued that if the NERC sets a metering target for the DISCOs, this could help to improve metering.

“Set a target for DISCOs on metering of consumers and be strict with it.

“You will be shocked that out of 40 million houses in Nigeria, those that have been metered are not up to 4 million.

“In the customer base of some DISCOs, we do not have up to seven million houses and out of it not up to one million have been metered.

“If a set target is given to the DISCOs, they will improve on metering of houses,’’ he said. (NAN)