By Abolade Ademola
In Laaga community, located around Ewu-Elepe, a suburb of Ikorodu, residents have been made to pay an estimated bill that is more than the minimum wage of the entire country, Nigeria.
The steady rise in the bill is very discomforting in a country where the rate of inflation keeps rising without a commensurate rise in income.
The residents of a community with few pre-paid meters have been suffering in silence for some months now but it has become very unbearable with the bill sent for January 2022 in the last few days, a whopping sum of N23,000 (twenty-three thousand naira) only! It is such an exasperating amount that everyone is lamenting this outrageous amount that was sent.
From findings, this rate is not just for Laaga community, the rate is also applicable to other adjoining communities. These include MowoKekere; Oke Eletu; Eleshin amongst others. This means it has become general exploitation to residents of Ikorodu most especially all those on Ijede road.
Our rights as Electricity consumers in Nigeria have been trampled upon- new electricity connections are not done strictly based on metering before connection. The community is filled up with new customers that were connected to Ikeja Electric without a meter first being installed at the premises.
As customers, we do not have an understanding of transparent electricity billing at the current rate. We are being overbilled unjustly and we are exercising our rights to contest any electricity bill.
Between October and December 2021, the bill was hovering around N12,000 (twelve thousand naira) only and when the December bill was sent in January, it was N18,000 (Eighteen thousand naira) only and the January bill was N23,000. This progression is alarming, the residents feel slighted and offended at this daylight robbery.
In January, after receiving the bill, residents went to the Omitoro undertaking office to complain and they were told that the hike was because of the electric consumption in December. Grudgingly, people accepted but that of January cannot be justified. In the last two weeks, residents of Laaga have been battling low voltage and disruption in the availability of electricity because of the malfunctioning transformer.
How can the consumption be the same when we are not having light? That means the assumed estimated billing being done from the transformer is not being done and we are just being exploited.
Historically, the old transformer was taken away but PHCN/Ikeja Electric workers and the community was left in the darkness. It took the efforts of the community residents to purchase the currently malfunctioning transformer. All the electric poles and cables within the community were bought with communal efforts and people are still suffering from outrageous bills like this.
Asides from this, they provide security on their own, streetlights, grade their road network from time to time amongst others.
Many of the residents of Laaga are civil servants and private sector people who leave their residents in the morning and return home late in the evening. It is evident in the way they troupe out and during the day. The Small and Medium Scale enterprises (MSMEs) in the neighbourhood have been grounded to a halt because they cannot power their businesses except the big ones who have generating sets. So, what we are made to pay has gone beyond the minimum wage of Nigeria and we are also not “heavy-users” of electricity like the industrial areas.
The request from pre-paid meters is also accompanied by its own herculean tasks. Meters are now being paid for- a-one phase meter at about 70,000 (seventy thousand naira) only while a-three phase meter is about 120,000 (one hundred and twenty thousand naira) only excluding the possibility of bribing one’s way to fast-track purchase and installation.
It is also rather unfortunate that Nigerians are made to still fill, KYC (Know Your Customer) form online and there is a time lag, which cannot be determined, on the period when mapping will be done and the metering will eventually be done.
Silently and unfortunately, there has been an increase in electricity tariff in the last four months but it needs to be in tandem with the economic realities of the time. The rate was 23.30 before it was increased to 25.3 but the February bill is at 27.22. It is really a breach of contract as our rights to adequate information have been violated over and over.
The suffering and smiling mode are already on the extreme and the residents of the community are ready to take the bull by the horn by disconnecting electricity and resolving to generators like it is being in some houses. In the last two weeks, when we have been on low voltage, we have survived and without electricity from Ikeja Electric, we will resolve to be Independent Power Generating Houses.
We would call on Ikeja Electric and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission to come to our aid so as not to discourage tax-paying Nigerians from being customers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). Of what good will it do all these organizations if all people who provided electricity infrastructure for themselves are being deprived of it?
We need our pre-paid meters now or Ikeja Electric should keep their low voltage while we become our Independent Power Generating Houses.
Abolade Ademola is a Public Affairs Specialist and a resident of Laaga Community, via Ewu-Elepe, Ikorodu, Lagos, Nigeria.