We have enough meters-Etim, AEDC CMO

Posted by News Express | 13 January 2023 | 273 times

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•Donald Etim


…Says power tariff has not increased


Nearly one year that a new management of the Abuja DisCo, better known as Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) led by  Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer, Adeoye Fadeyibi came on board some innovations have been introduced to improve power and offer better services. These innovations are evident in the new cost of meters, 12 mobile MAP Metering centres, Whistleblowing policy, confronting infrastructure vandals, to mention just these few. But despite these steps towards up scaling stable power distribution many customers still complain of incessant power outage, or, outright darkness in the nation’s federal capital, poor customer service and indeed, impunity of staff.

 Donald Etim, Chief Marketing Officer, and in some way, the prolific face of AEDC, in this interview attempts to answer critical questions around the issues.

Can we have your thoughts on power improvement projection in Abuja, and perhaps, your other franchise areas?

Let me take us a little back in history. Prior to your (Management) coming on board, was controversy that surrounded the Intervention Fund provided by the CBN, that led to first, the suspension and later sack of the AEDC management by President Muhammadu Buhari. Our investigations show that these issues are still lingering. Is the former management constituting obstacles or barrier to your wheel of progress towards delivering the desired power. Does a ‘powerful cabal’ still controlling everything here?

Quite frankly, I can’t speak on the issues. But that is unfair question. Because I can’t speak on the past. As an organisation I can tell you we are meeting our obligations to staff, especially salaries and other sundry commitments and even funding operations, otherwise we wouldn’t be functional as an organisation.

On assumption of office you unfolded an agenda, which anchors on better, improved service and innovative energy delivery architecture. All targeted at improving customer experience, It is almost one year you are here how much of this have you achieved?

I think in terms of having an agenda on what we need to do, I think when we arrived we did a business review and in the course of that review we identified 40 quick wins. I mean 40 would sound like a lot. 40 quick interest. This essentially has to do with actions, remediation and interventions that we felt if implement in the system it will be result in the betterment of business output, business results, customer satisfaction and revenue inflow. So, popularly in - house we refer to them broadly as the 40 Quick Wins. We can categorise all the issues this quick wins is supposed to address. First, we had to go into de-loading of our feeders. The technical audit of our networks quickly revealed that all our feeders were overloaded. So, that led to our inability to deliver stable, reliable power. So we took some interventions on. And the main focus was de-loading of feeders. And you can de-load feeders either by taking some customers off, transfer to other feeder who were under loaded or under- served or by constructing brand new feeders all together. Then, we also explored the option of increasing the quantum of repair work we do by ourselves. So, in terms of fixing transformers, we ramped up the number of transformers we are repairing because a number of transformers were out of circuit, out of commission. So, in the course of the past 11 months we have repaired no fewer than 40 transformers. We have bought outright no less than 80 brand new transformers. And we keep acquiring based on the much resources available to us.

 I’m not in the best position to speak categorically to issues around our finances because I don’t have the figures. We have improved payment systems, re-establish our self as no 1 DisCo

We have tried so much as a management to turn our focus and the workforce’s vision to the future and on the things we need to do to re-establish ourselves as the number one DisCo.

Let’s keep the conversation around DisCos and power supply in your franchise areas and management issues?

Can you speak to innovation you have introduced to ensure that power stabilises in Abuja, perhaps, your other franchise areas?

We have done some initiatives from the technical point of view. This is a technical business. If your transformers are not active or in circuit, if your conductors are not carrying current to deliver in homes and offices you are not in business. So that is our primary constituency. And we have gotten involved in network audit and cleansing. Cleansing in the sense that we have to realign and reconfigure our feeders. Go into energy balancing to improve energy magnitude. We have gone into issues of feeder metering and transformer ditty metering. We have gone into metering customers as well, extensively. It may not be as fluid or robust as we would have wanted it to be, especially also because of the overall state of the global economy not even national economy. The challenges of our economy today can be assessed from a global outlook. So in terms of metering we have improved payment systems. Before you could only pay through one channel on our website. However, we have introduced two or three other options on our website that allow you to make payments. And the one channel we had initially wasn’t charging anything. So that was a clear advantage for that. If go to other channels off the AEDC’s platforms you pay N100 handling fee. We listened to customers who wanted us to also take into consideration that N100 can mean a lot. So we launched a channel on our website that allows one to pay without a N100 commission. We added a third one. We have gone beyond this to introduce USSD code for payment, where if you dial the code, then dial in the amount you want to buy, dial in your meter number. All of these dialling are happening from your phone number which is registered to your account. You pay a token and you vend. So we have invested a lot of financial and non-financial resources in improving customer experience. These are things that happened as we arrived. We did business review. And we decided to improve the system.

Are these transformers in Abuja or spread across?

Across the franchise.  Abuja, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger states. And then, we have also explored a lot of collaborations. We work a lot with other members of Power Ecosystem, other agencies like the Rural Electrification Agency, Niger Delta Power Holding Company, Transmission Company of Nigeria. And this thing has resulted in either in the establishment of new substations or provision of new powered transformers or the building or construction of new feeders all together. I think in May, we were in Niger state, where went to commission a substation which could easily be termed a PPP project and which helped in creating relief on the infrastructure in Bida. It optimises supply and generally improves power stability. That facility was provided by I think at a time by a serving member of National Assembly who worked on that in conjunction with AEDC and a couple of other stakeholders. There is also a project we commissioned earlier in the year in Lafia. That project was championed by Niger Delta Power Holding Company. Of course is a substation as well which when it was completed and launched and we energised it, it took electricity supply to Lafia and environs from 4 to 6 hours daily to what a journalist working at Radio Nigeria, would say to a question; please how many hours of electricity do you now enjoy in Lafia. He said in his particular area 26 hours a day. Coming from a journalist that is to show he is super excited. And that is the situation.

(Cuts in) What is Niger Delta Power Holding Company doing in your franchise area or mandate zone?

This is a corporate agency that is working to ensure zero power interruption project. So as a business outfit its activities are not limited to Niger Delta area. These are all part of the Quick Wins. We have done stuffs in vending, metering. For metering, it used to take 10 days to be metered after payment. You go online to register and wait for 10 days to get metered. In those 10 days they would have been sit visitation to you house, you would have completed the service request form and you would have received an SMS to go and make payment and you present the receipt and your meter is installed. And there after you get activated and powered. It used to take 10 days. But now we are doing that in 24 hours. And we are looking into how we can even reduce it. So, fundamental changes we brought into metering apart from the real time, instead of just waiting for customers to go onto our website or come into our offices. We came up with an innovation we call Mobile metering. This essentially means we take the meters in trucks and drive them to locations. Two days before we arrive the locations, based on availability of funds, we would have gone to sensitise the people, either by using a town crier or public address system and we put our merchandisers out there.

Can you mention places you have done this?

We have done this several locations. About 27 locations. We done this in Kubwa, Trademore estate, we have done it in Lugbe, Acco estate. We have done several.  We branded a bus, put merchandisers, gone round.  In some areas we got information that they dangerous areas, that the customers are very restive because of poor supply at a time. So, we gone in there met the community leaders, they said ok come with your meters. So, you know when they have not been having steady supply, it became a case of give us light and we will buy your meters. We always walk around those issues and deliver some confidence building indicators first. Then people are subscribe and they buy. Internally, what drove us to do this is because there have been contentious issues like what customers call crazy bills. Those issues of crazy billing, issues of estimated billing, there are issues of transformer failures and all that. And in all these when we get into a situation where there is likely going to be disputes the best and only arbiter between the customer, DisCo, the regulator and other stakeholders in the ecosystem is the meter. Because the meter is the only one that tells you accurately what you consumed and when you consumed it.

Are you still experimenting on your mobile marketing of the meters?

We have gone beyond experimenting on it.

You seem to concentrate on the Abuja market. Do you have any explanations for this?

We are in Niger. We have done it Kogi. You buy meter and get it installed in 24 hours. And we are still looking into making it instant. But there are challenges.

What are the challenges?

In terms of limited resources. In terms of how many meter engineers do you have. You can afford to keep on the road in a particular location bearing in mind also that customers are also going to the offices asking for the same meters. You the professional term for this aspect of the business is called metering. We decided to redefine it. We said to ourselves metering is when customers come to us and ask and we go through the process for ten days to deliver it. So, we went mobile with it.  You know I have a multi-sectorial background. If we could sell products by organising road shows why can’t we do it with the meters. If we could take mobile phones and tobacco products and hit the road why can’t we do it with the meters.

So what is the feedback like, on the innovation-mobile method of metering. I ask this question because here in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory a lot more of homes are not metered despite government’s mass metering campaigns/ project. How much meters do think will be adequate to meet the demands in Abuja alone?

If I had some foresight that you will ask this question I would have checked with the technical department to provide the exact figures.

Let me put it this way. Simply, do you have enough meter to meet demands in your franchise areas?

Okay let me take us some step back. Across Sub-Sahara Africa metering is a huge problem. So you know that we have less 50 per cent population penetration across sub-Sahara Africa for electricity. So Africans have less than 50 per cent access to power. And of this less 50 per cent those who are consuming metered power are even smaller numbers. So, across Sub-Sahara Africa meter is a huge problem. And Nigeria is a significant microcosm of Sub-Sahara Africa. Even in Nigeria not just Abuja DisCo, across other DisCos metering is a problem. That is why you see for us is a national imperative that the government can’t really let go of, because it bridges the metering gaps. As we speak today, I can’t speak to the exact numbers of meters we have in the store. But we do have enough meters to take care of customers’ demands for the next two to three months. I can’t guarantee the meters would take us beyond this period.

This is quite a success if have that number of meters that will sustain your business. But you still have not addressed the question why many of your customers in Abuja have not been metered. I am not even talking about those in the outskirts. Can we understand why it is so. What has happened to the intervention projects by development partners like the World Bank?

Can I speak to that at two levels. Getting metered is a relationship. Is a two-way process. So we as a DisCo require that our customers are metered. We may not necessarily be the one providing the meters directly and I will explain why. By whatever mechanism the meters come to the market, once they are in the market place, the customer is the expected to ask, or even if we tell you need a meter. You need to demonstrate the wiliness to accept or acquire the meter. So is symbiotic two-way traffic. That is to say you cannot force the meter on someone who is not ready, willing or able to get metered. That said, so what are the various mechanisms or pathways to get a meter. Upon joining this industry for me, personally, these are some of the things I did a research on. What we came out with is there are several metering initiatives in the past largely driven by the government or agencies of the government. Or development agencies. However, I can speak to two broad way approaches. So, one approach is the national mass metering programme. Under the national mass metering programme, the federal government working with some partners within the ecosystem made available meters to the various DisCos in different quantities. And then essentially said go meter you people. So customers who didn’t have meters decided to express interest, dropped their details and were metered. And this was done across all the DisCo areas. It was done across the Abuja electricity areas. I can’t speak to the exact numbers now but it recorded great success. This activity was broken into phases. The phase zero of it was what happened in the first time. And it ran a full course to the end. Very recently, I think before August, there was this national sensitisation programme by the ministry of Power that the next phase was going to commence on August 1. But I think again due to logistics it couldn’t take off. So that is one broad way of getting metered. The other way to get metered is through what we call Meter Acquisition Partners (MAP). So, here a certified third party, certified by NEC-the regulator gets into the space of the DisCos and says I can meter your customers but those customers have to be willing to part with some amount of money. These meters come at a fixed price nationwide. So these meters belong to the third party. So the customer pays to the third party. The third party supplies the meters to the customer through the DisCo.

(Cuts in) At an additional cost

No additional cost. The price is the same in Calabar, same as in Katsina, Nsukka, Kaura Namoda, Lagos and Abuja, everywhere. The DisCo now reimburses the customer over time through energy credit. What led to this was because the government in its wisdom was not in the position to fund the capital outlay. This is a business and we always say that government has no business being in business. And the DisCos generally did not have the cash outlay to fund this. So, these MAP scheme partners then undertook the outsource risk of making these meters available in such a way is a win -win situation for all the three partners. So at the end of the day if we look at both models because sometimes people who observing the industry would say oh meters are supposed to be free. That government said meters are free. So why are the DisCos selling meters. Let me tell you, meters are indeed free to the customer. Outside of that somebody else pays for it. So it is either the DisCos pay for it directly or pay for it later over time through energy refunds.

You will need to explain this all over. Because if a customer is purchasing a single phase meter at the cost of N63, 000, how is it now free?

We are going to give you energy back to the tune of N63, 000.

(Cuts in) for how long the customer will enjoy this. Because the customer would still be subscribing to activate the meter?

There is a formula to it. That is predetermined and approved by the regulator. It comes pre-loaded

The customer would like to know how this compensates him for the meter he acquired at that cost?

The compensation is not instant. You see when you get into a payment plan anywhere across most if not all industries, across every category of service operators’ offering, once you get into a payment plan, the refunds or the deductions, why do we have payment plan in the first place. Is such that people can acquire it without having to bleed. When deductions are being made is made piecemeal overtime such that it does not disturb your cash flow. Or if it is refund it does not create so much distortion. There is a balance, at the end of the day you get your credit all out. Those are the two broad methods. There is  another thing I need to mention as to why people are not getting meter so. We have looked at the avenues for getting meters on one hand, we have also looked at the fact is a two way relationship. So, there has to be wiliness on both side. There has to be a willing provider and there has to be also a willing uptaker. The other thing is the pace of development in this country, civil development. Especially in a place like Abuja. I live somewhere in Wuye. When I moved into my neighbourhood on my street, road avenue or Boulevard alone there less than 12 buildings. Today, there are blocks of apartments. There are about 6oo buildings. Just popping up like vegetables. And they need to be metered. The buildings need to be inspected. Type specified and the metered. So, this is a development issue. If you come to Wuye you will storey building spring up like anything, you will a metrics of buildings like five storey of no less than four apartments per a floor. So, that will be 16 dwelling homes in a block.  I thing the gap will always exist in the need for meter. We have a roving team going to spot new developments. Talking to the developers. If we don’t take into consideration the upcoming buildings in our planning we will end up with a jungle. It may look like a selfish business planning. But it ultimately helps us to plan. If we don’t do it we will not be able to provide the necessary technical infrastructure to support that development.

The issue of pre-paid meter still remains an important issue. The cost of acquiring meters has gone up too high beyond the affordability of the poor customer. It is already looking like the Federal government mass metering has been frustrated. How can you explain this?

It has not been frustrated. I am not speaking for the government. I think if you have a responsibility to deliver service either as public sector provider or as a private sector provider every day you will be managing and joggling with many competing daily needs in the face of limited resources. So to that extent I wouldn’t say that the mass metering is frustrated. I think the Federal government is just putting its house in order. Any day any time they have the muscles they can roll out that programme and then further alleviate the suffering. In terms of cost, I know that what we refer to as unit cost or unit price for the meters were not arbitrarily set. There must have been surveys. You see one of the beauties of this industry is that the power industry is one of the most effectively regulated in this country. The regulator watches over us as a hawk. Especially we in Abuja DisCo. Other DisCos are a bit far off. But here the regulators monitor us closely because we operate in the seat of power, seat of government and always in public eye. The regulator has been talking to DisCos to come up with other clever, creative ways of getting everyone metered.  You know, change comes slowly atimes, especially when it is multi-dimensional. So, as Abuja DisCo we do understand that customers have challenges in getting meters. We are aware that sometimes meter installers do ask for installation fee. So we recently went out with a campaign that says do not pay for meter installation. The cost of installing a meter is already built in the cost of the meter. So do not pay. And it is not just meter installation fee that we are up against is bad behaviour generally. So, if you observe or notice something we expect that you say something as they say. And because of this we have done two incredible things. And this is where we leverage on technology to improve experience. The first thing we did to that is really customer friendly was to improve customer experience, so we launched the Whistleblowing programme. This used to be internally managed. As a customer or an observer or bystander if  you observe any untoward thing happening at our metering site or transformer site you call the number. Or at any point where our service is being consumed or assessed that customer has a right to call our Whistleblowing number and report. For some reasons our customers felt we were not being honest or transparent enough.  The customers’ complaint was that some staff managing the whistleblowing programme then, could stay on matters that affected their own interest. So, we out sourced it to an independent credible international arbiter, Deloits. So the Deloits is currently managing the Whistleblowing platform for us and we have recorded some successes. You know mischief makers will always be there in every society. We found out that sometimes when someone turned around at your door claiming he is a staff of AEDC, he may turn out that he is not a genuine staff of AEDC. And each time a customer opened his door even before the establishment of identity is a huge risk. So we launched a verified platform. With this verified platform when someone shows up at your door with an ID card uniformed or not as says I m a staff of AEDC I am here to inspect your property. A customer ordinarily, typically will ask for an ID card. So when you get this ID card simply type in download our app and press verified, the person’s photo will come up with his name and number. And if he is not one of us you will know also.

This technology has its challenge. Do you think the customer has time to go through this. You need to create adequate awareness on this?

We have been publicising it. You know creating awareness sounds simple. But it is not. Especially for a multi-demographic terrain like ours. So I could do what I am doing on tweeter, Instagram and all that, in the FCT and it works. When I step out of FCT and go to Minna or Lafia I have to go on radio and personally talk about it. Or make leaflets, hand bills. During our customer forum or customer engagement we also sensitise them. And sensitising them is an ongoing thing. We keep doing it. But because of feedback we receive from customer we have saved more than a few ugly situations.

I understand that one of you headaches is mindless destruction of your facilities by ruthless vandals. So how have you been able to confront the problem and that of energy theft

 I may say at this point may be you are clairvoyant. Why I say so is because in the last three to four weeks the act of vandalism against AEDC assets has been on the rise. And the rate has been so alarming we felt it was no longer organic. So we have carried out several investigations and established that it borders on the realm sabotage.

You are coming back to my opening remarks or question?

No. No I chose the words carefully. It borders on the realm of sabotage. Now sabotage in the sense that based on the suspects who have been arrested none of these cases has been traced to any previous influences or tendencies. However, people seemed to be generally aggrieved across the nation. Nationwide, there are a lot of angry people. And people attribute bad behaviour to so many things that never happened before. You can imagine a situation where for a particular site a vandal goes there and performs his act, steals the cables and we replace it the next day, he goes to sell it and returns back to same sit to steal. For now we actually have hot spots. So what we have done is this we started early in the year to prosecute. And we have won four of those cases. In fact, there is no case of vandalism we have lost. We then come back and create marketing communication materials around this. And we put it out there on social media and sometimes, on traditional media to say do not vandalise. When you do if you are lucky you will be jailed. If you are not lucky you will be roasted. So, we have done these campaigns and I get personally involved. I am not an arm chair business leader. I get personally involved in what we do from development to delivery.  But is not abating. Recently we had to assemble think-tank and brain stormed on how we can get this thing slow down. We then agreed between marketing and communication, health and safety and technical, why don’t we bring survivors of partial electrocution and vandalism and we go on road shows with them and let us talk to the people about why it is dangerous to vandalise power facilities. It is an unusual problem. It needs an unusual solution. The health and safety people agreed with me. What is getting in the way of that execution now is the holiday season. Is one of the things we are going to start the New Year with it.

But did you look at the legal implications of using a suspect in the public for driving home your messaging. I would have thought that a suspect still enjoys some protection under our laws?

Why we have access to them in the first place is electrocution is not the same with falling from a bicycle. When you go and the cables sample you it demobilises you. When you fall down you will be shouting for help, at least, people will rush to help you are no longer in denial. At this point in time you have already paid the price for the crime you committed. People who have been partially electrocuted or charged will understand the shocks and trauma, so, these are the people we going to use to talk to their colleagues that it doesn’t pay. So that is one additional thing we want to throw at the system and see how it works. And why we are concerned about this is that electricity supply within the FCT franchise area has really improved.

Can you beat your chest on this?


You there was a time I used to go to radio stations I will be so embarrassed. I will be very embarrassed because people will be talking to you about darkness everywhere and you know that it is true. Because you see everywhere. The supply was not there. And even if the supply was there, our network would not be able to sustain it. There was a time that when you go out you get worried. But now when I go to radio stations or media houses for interviews you will hear the most commonly occurring problem today is not that of supply but about transformer burning or explosion or replacement because some of the feeders are old and overloaded and still not being deloaded enough. Then, there is a lot of illegal connections going on which we are still trying to clean out. And then you get these vandals getting electrocuted every day because they are used to those days when there were no power at the site they can go there smoke, drink and do anything. But now they can’t do it.

If talk about Lugbe, I can tell the reason for that. One of the 40 Quick Wins involves construction of new feeders along the Lugbe axis. So when they finish constructing them deloading the feeders, separating the conductors so that sometimes you put heavy users, industries or companies and bread makers on one side and households on the other side it does take a bit of time. I think it is a TCN project.

Currently, what is being allocated to AEDC for distribution as a DisCo?

Do you mean the exact amount.

Yes. The public will like to known?

It will be in the region of 400 to 500 MW.

Do you distribute what you are allocated by a known formula in such a way that your four franchise areas get same treatment. Or there is some preferential treatment and influences ?

Every customer is important. Every customer is very important not one to be toyed with. I am not an Engineer, but then I am aware that several factors are always considered when it comes to energy allocation. Sometimes it may be tariff band of the customer universe in a particular area. It may be based on scheduled maintenance. It may be due to network accessibility or availability.  A customer may be placed on Band A and that means at least, 20 hours of electricity will be delivered to him. But everybody get something.

Let me close by asking you to speak to the issue of the recent tariff hike. How can you explain the secret hike in tariff ?

As of today, as at yesterday and as at day before yesterday there is no tariff hike. There has been no tariff hike.

But I buy power and I have noticed some increase in tariff?

 Honestly there is no increase. We did notice that on December 1 customers that vended on that day paid exactly higher rates than usual. You know systems fail. That is the issue with technology. We noticed it before some customer would notice it as well. It was rectified immediately in less than 24 hours. And the customers were given their credits back. They probably didn’t notice it. Because it didn’t come back as cash.


Source: News Express

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