Again, Nigeria’s mass metering project suffers setback

Strong indications have emerged that delivery and installation of the first one million meters under the Phase Zero of the national mass metering programme (NMMP) by the end of the month (July) would not be realised despite the extension of the earlier deadline.

The federal government had shifted the deadline for installation of the first one million meters to July 2021, after earlier deadlines of April and June 2021 failed.
LEADERSHIP findings revealed that the federal government is yet to take full delivery of the one million meters needed for the first phase or Phase Zero, of the programme while the numbers so far installed is even lower.

Latest details reveal that the federal government has taken delivery of 656,752 prepaid meters, out of which about 400,000 have so far been installed.
This represents about 65.6 per cent performance on delivery while installation is about 40 per cent of the targeted one million meters more than two months after the initial deadline of April 2021 had elapsed. The deadline was further shifted to June and this was also not realised.

At 40 per cent installation rate as at end of June, indications are rife that the latest deadline would be flunked yet again
Experts in the power industry have however disagreed with claims by distribution companies (DisCos) that customers rejecting prepaid meters altered the time-frame to conclude deployment of the one million free prepaid meters under the zero phase programme.

LEADERSHIP investigations revealed that most DisCos lack adequate capacity to meet up with the period scheduled within the first phase.
Our investigation further showed that there is a dearth of trained meter installers across the country and that has limited the deployment process.
Our findings equally showed that the Meter Asset Providers (MAP) did not have the volume of meters declared to the federal government.

“The meters are not there even though government released the initial N59 billion for the one million meters they claimed were available” an industry expert who would not like to be mentioned told our correspondent.

Special adviser to the president on infrastructure, Ahmad Rufai Zakari, had told LEADERSHIP at the beginning of June that the government would wrap up the distribution of its initial one million meters by July and immediately kick-start the distribution of the four million shortly afterwards.

Under the NMMP, it is expected that six million meters would be distributed by 2023 to bridge the metering gap in the country.
Reacting to the delay in delivery, he lamented that installation has been slow due to inadequate personnel.

“Although we have more than 600,000 delivered to the distribution companies, installations are lagging behind the deliveries. We should meter up and then conclude the first one million by the end of July.”

“The challenges we saw were on the trained personnel for the installation. Many of the providers have had to hire more personnel, they have never installed these many meters in this amount of time and then with Covid-19 there were some supply constraints as well but then we’ve gotten past those and we are confident that come end of July we should close Phase zero and launch Phase 1” he said.

The national mass metering programme is an initiative of the federal government and electricity distribution companies (DisCos), in collaboration with the local meter manufacturers, to provide smart prepaid meters to all unmetered customers.

It is expected that six million smart prepaid meters would be distributed to electricity consumers by the end of the exercise, which the federal government said it would conclude by 2023.

LEADERSHIP reports that at the end of their meeting on 17 of June this year, the Association of Meter Asset Providers, (MAP), observed some challenges and bottlenecks that have continued to affect the full achievement of set targets to close the metering gap since the implementation of the MAP and NMMP.

In a communique after the meeting, they listed fixed meter pricing in a regime of depreciating foreign exchange rates, unavailability of foreign exchange from CBN, Customs clearing bottlenecks, implementation of the 35 per cent levy waiver granted by the president on fully built prepaid meters and improvements to the industry structure for accelerated prepaid meter deployment as key challenges.

The MAPs also noted the disruptions in the global supply chain resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, with an attendant increase in international prices of raw materials and components required in the manufacture and assembly of prepaid meters.

But our source dismissed the claims saying that during the discussion held with the government the MAPs claimed they had enough meters on the shelf and the balance one million units would be assembled with available components already in-country.

She therefore wondered how the forex and customs clearing bottleneck could challenge products that have been cleared and in the warehouse.

However, speaking with LEADERSHIP, managing director and chief executive officer, of Momas Electricity Meters Manufacturing Company Limited, Mr Kola Balogun, said the ongoing mass metering initiative is commendable and it is unprecedented in the history of the downstream power sector because this is the first time that we are having a genuine commitment by the federal government to ensuring that the identified metering gap in the country is bridged

Balogun said that looking at the framework for its implementation, it is tailored at developing local industry because all the 10 million electricity meters to be deployed under the scheme are to be sourced from local manufacturers.

The implication of this is that there will be enormous employment opportunities for our youths, our GDP will be improved and in the long-run our economy will be developed.

“So the NMMP scheme is a very good policy by the federal government and we really appreciate the government for it,” he said.

He noted that despite all the concerns raised, the initial phase of the programme was successful because all the concerned stakeholders are collectively driving the implementation of the scheme.

“Although, the time frame set by the federal government for the completion of the phase zero was not met by the players which led to the shift in the deadline,” he said, adding, “it is a learning process and now the challenges are known and the players have overcome it hence the next phase will be a lot smoother.”

He attributed delayed installation to due process.
According to him, meters are available but we should understand that every electricity meter must go through testing and certification by the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) before it is accepted by the Discos.

“Also, every Disco has its processes of documentation that Customers must go through in applying for electricity meters before allocation. Mode of installation and capturing varies from one Disco to another.

“Although, this is a big challenge as a lot of time and resources are being wasted on switching from different meter specification and mode of installation by the various Discos and it is important that government should sit with the stakeholders to agree on a single electricity meter specification and a uniform mode of installation for the country just like other developed countries have done,” said Balogun.

He said if this done, it will go a long way to help in proper planning and it will bring about unprecedented growth and development of the power sector as well as technological development of our nation.

He however observed that under the NMMP, there are so many challenges local manufacturers are confronted with and it is not peculiar to the power sector alone but cut across all the other sectors of our economy.

“Lack of forex provision to import CKD is the least among the problems, some of the big issues that are affecting the local manufacturers are; impediments on raw materials importation as a result of unwarranted permits from SON and NAFDAC despite the fact that our finished products are required to compulsorily go through NEMSA (Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency) for testing and certification before being put to use

“High import tariff on importation of various components necessary to produce electricity meters and the import duty exemption certificate available to the local manufacturers as an incentives is not encouraging enough to sustain manufacturing because it only entitles manufacturers to zero per cent import duty on components but other tariffs like VAT, ETLS, SURCHARGE and CISS are payable.”

Speaking on the issue, the general manager corporate communications department, Eko Electricity Distribution Company, EKEDC, Mr Godwin Idemudia, said the mass metering programme by the government is a very good initiative because it will open the way for job creation on the part of Nigerians and covering the metering gaps being experienced by customers.

Idemudia’s impression is that the first phase has been successful and that the implementation was work in progress.

“Definitely you cannot really blame customers that are complaining due to the waiting time before the government came to the rescue. But in all this, some customers also do not want to be metered because metering them brings out their true consumption rate which is not to their benefit.”

For effective implementation of the scheme the MAP Association demanded for an upward review of the current price of prepaid meter by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in view of rising inflation, continued upward movement of foreign exchange rates, associated increases in customs costs, increase in container freight costs, and the disruptions in the international supply chain, leading to a global increase in the prices of raw materials and components for the manufacture of prepaid meters.

They note that there will be a corresponding downward review of meter prices when there is a downward movement in foreign exchange rates and other cost factors.

Source: Leadership

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