The Jos Electricity Distribution Company, JEDC, has sunk N2 billion into procuring new transformers and other critical infrastructure crucial to effective service delivery, an official has said.
The Managing Director of JEDC, Mohammed Modibbo, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Jos on Sunday that part of the money went into procuring customer metres and the maintenance of other facilities that had broken down.
“When we took over JEDC, we found out that most of the transformers were dilapidated; some were more than 50 years old and needed urgent replacement.
“We had to replace many of them which improved the capacity of injection sub-stations and improved power distribution,” he said.
He assured electricity customers of an even better improvement in electricity supply “in the next 18-24 months.”
He premised this on the commitment of the Federal Government and stakeholders in the electricity supply chain to stable power supply.
Mr. Modibbo expressed happiness at the steady rise in power generated by the GENCOs, attributing this to “a drastic drop in pipeline vandalism that had raised the capacity of the thermal power generating companies.”
He, however, appealed to customers to consistently pay their bills to enable investors continue to make more investments toward improving the quality of power supply.
Mr. Modibbo identified the inaccuracy of data on assets inherited by the new owners of the distribution companies as a major challenge that had constituted a drawback to the quest for speedy progress.
“In the last 50 years, there has been poor management of the number of customers and company assets which has led to wrong assumptions in financing the critical needs of the company.
“As big as the country is, all the distribution companies currently have a customer data base of under five million today.
“Clearly, a significant majority of the population are `stealing’ electricity. So, the JEDC has done a lot in terms of trying to get an accurate data of these customers.
“We are embarking on an aggressive customer audit exercise to enumerate all existing customers as well as those who are stealing electricity from the network and are not paying.
“We have a lot of illegal customers captured on the network and this is one abnormality of the past that we must correct,” he said.
According to him, JEDC will capture new and illegal customers, give them meters and even expand the network. He said that the company would share out 150,000 meters to the four states it was serving – Plateau, Benue, Gombe and Bauchi, in the next five years.
Mr. Modibbo also disclosed that 15,000 had already been shared to customers in Jos alone. He said that the company had also embarked on aggressive maintenance of its infrastructure “to avoid occasional breakdowns that could impede effective supply.’’
The official described customers’ response to payment as “very poor,” but explained that the situation had improved “with constant dialogue and improved services.”
“With more interaction, we have found that many customers are willing to pay because even the power generators they fall back on are more costly,” he explained.
He decried the massive corruption in the system, pointing out that JEDC had a potential 700,000 customer base while only 300,000 of them were legally captured.
Mr. Modibbo particularly decried the high level of indebtedness by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), noting that the debts had accumulated “for more than 30 years.”
He said that the Nigeria Army recently reduced its debt by N15 million, describing the gesture as “very commendable, even though the liability left is still much.”
The managing director said that the Plateau Government was also heavily indebted, but expressed happiness that it had initiated steps to defray its debt.
“Like Plateau, we have reached out to other states and have started working out a plan for payment.”
They have made pledges and we shall follow up and ensure redemption,’’ he said.
Mr. Modibbo said that the EDCs raised the indebtedness matter at its recent meeting with the Minister of Power and were asked to compile the actual debts by each state, MDAs and other debtors.
“We are already compiling the information; the minister has assured us that he would even work toward deducting the monies from source in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Office of the Accountant General of the Federation,” he said.
Mr. Modibbo also decried the rising incidence of customers by-passing service meters, warning that those caught would be treated as criminals and prosecuted.
“Once you tamper with our services, you are not only sabotaging our company and stealing electricity, but depriving others who are paying for the product, their right to enjoy what is theirs,’’ he said.