Engaging communities in Rivers and Edo states to improve metering & reduce theft

Many people in Nigeria still have very limited access to electricity or rely on diesel generators which are noisy, expensive, and produce localised air pollution because they cannot access reliable grid-electricity. As part of our #PowerHour project to improve this situation, SDN held engagement sessions in community town-hall events in both Benin, Edo State and in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. These events brought together 110 stakeholders involved in the delivery of electricity from the grid to improve communication and cooperation in rolling out electricity metering and reducing electricity theft and sabotage. The town-hall venue enables the local community to attend in person to raise their concerns and hold key stakeholders to account on what they are doing to improve electricity provision from the grid.

In Benin, our town-hall event was attended by: Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), the Federal Competition Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), electricity customers, media, security agencies, community representatives, and Community Advocacy Working Groups (CAWGs).

In Port Harcourt, our town-hall event was attended by: Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED), FCCPC South-South Zone, electricity customers, CSOs, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), and media.

Although the town-hall events highlighted some challenges specific to Benin (BEDC) and Port Harcourt (PHED), both revolved around the same issues: rolling out electricity meters to everyone, and stopping electricity theft and vandalism—estimated by one PHED official to cost their company some NGN2 million per month.

Progress:

  • A total of 79,100 meters, under the national mass-metering programme, have been allocated to PHED’s franchise states—with 56,000 meters installed as of April 2021.
  • PHED is implementing the ‘Meter Asset Provider’ and the National Mass Metering Programme to bridge the metering gap in its franchise states.
  • CAWGs are working well to liaise between consumers and BEDC, resolving local issues in electricity provision.

Ongoing challenges:

  • Electricity theft and corruption continue to hamper roll-out and increase costs to consumers, PHED, and BEDC, with meter by-passing increasing.
  • Estimated billing is growing in Rivers State along with frustrations from customers that see it as an arbitrary and unclear billing system.
  • Increasing numbers of fraudulent PHED staff are sabotaging meters.
  • NSCDC report a lack of informants within communities as a barrier to prevent vandalism.

Stakeholder recommendations:

  • Electricity customers should utilise BEDC’s whistleblowing phone numbers to report electricity theft and corruption.
  • FCCPC should be well staffed and funded to scale-up interventions to educate consumers and arbitration between consumers and PHED/BEDC.
  • Meters should be rolled out to everyone to increase transparency and fairness, ending estimated billing.

Although there are ongoing challenges, the progress highlighted here marks just some of the wider impacts of the #PowerHour project, and the value of dialogue between communities, electricity distribution companies, and the other stakeholders involved. The recommendations made by stakeholders identify possible next steps to improve provision of grid-fed electricity. Hopefully, having witnessed the benefits of working collaboratively and in regular communication with communities, town-hall events like these will continue and SDN’s work will have a long legacy.

Published: 30.06.21

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