My Nigerian Disco Experience 2

Bekeme Masade-Olowola(HOST): Hi everyone, this is Bekeme and you are listening to The Good Citizen Radio show. The show is brought to you by CSR-In-Action and is funded by none other than Aspire Coronation Trust Foundation, aka Act Foundation, which is a grants making organisation established in 2016 to support non-profits in the areas of health, entrepreneurship, environment and leadership and that’s why they fund The Good Citizen Radio Show, because we are here to teach you how to take charge of your destiny. So last week, we commenced talking about discos and electricity challenges that Nigerians have particularly with metering, and we called it my Nigerian Disco Experience. This week, it is my Nigerian Disco Experience TWO, and we have a person that we think should be able to answer succinctly on behalf of discos or at least in this case, on behalf of Eko electricity distribution company. I am speaking today to Babatunde Lasaki who is the Assistant General Manager, Corporate Communications at EKEDC.

Bekeme: Welcome to the show Babatunde.

Babatunde: Thank you for having me.

Bekeme: Okay, so last week we commenced a discussion around the metering challenges that Nigerian’s have. And we had Mr. Olalere Babasola on the show, Friday the 14th he shared his experience so far with Eko electricity distribution company. He spoke extensively about how his meter went blank in 2019 and despite concerted efforts to have EKEDC, rectify the issue, his property was disconnected, and he was asked to replace the meter saying that it was bad. He was giving a link to apply for a replacement online, but could not complete the application because he needed apparently to have a licensed electrician cuties for registration number and completes a portion of the form, he had to get his lawyer involved, and after many iterations between his lawyer and EKEDC staff, they promised to help him get a licensed electrician. All of this had been since, you know, November 2019, when he EKDC turned up at his property early this year, when he complained during the town hall meeting and disconnected the meter basically. Now, in August, he received a bill for 14,857 Naira for a property without a meter or electricity. This is when he reached out to us on The Good Citizen initiative and during the course of this between last week, and now he says that they have finally provided him with a license or you have finally as EKEDC provided him with a licensed electrician to complete the form and that he was charged 10,000 by the said electrician. So he has submitted the form and everything but, as we had this this show we had other people reach out to us and I know that you’re not representative of other discos but I can tell you for free that it is the same issue that we have across boards, they specifically are with the Ikeja distribution company. And, you know, one of them is Sylvia, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment in a Egbeda who complained about receiving outrageous charges, and was made to pay an outstanding bill of 93,000 Naira owed by the previous occupant. And Michael also had to pay the sum of 39,800 on the 27th of February 2020 for a meter to a Zenith bank account that they then told him did not belong to them, and that he should pay another amount. Now, you may think that he should have paid to an official source but for us consumers, you must understand that it is oftentimes not as straightforward as this. For instance, when we try to reach out to you, I went to your website, when I could not reach a number that was given to me an actually the individual who works with EKEDC, we went to your website, and the number that’s there just would not connect, it just rang off. Okay, I called during the show and just rang off. So, it is not quite as straightforward. So, if we go back to Mr. Babasola, the lawyer was told during the course of one of her discussions that she had to bring a laptop and I start to wonder how many Nigerians have laptops or access to the internet? And how would the person at the bottom of the pyramids survive how they have 10,000 Naira to pay a licensed electrician? How would us citizens get licensed electricians? And you know, is it legal for instance, to try and keep it for the electrician? So, these are some of the questions I would like for us to start off with.

Babatunde: Thank you very much Bekeme. First and foremost, our right to start Look at your matron as well as a smart meter. That is what we call the smart meter which Mr. Babashola complained about.

Bekeme: What did he complain about it?

Babatunde: The Smart meter.

Bekeme:  Yes. Why did he complain about it?

Babatunde: that meter went blank, that we could not help him to resolve the problem. We would like people to know that procuring meter now has been taken away from the discos. And this is regulatory, backed by the federal government’s act. So, the federal government in their own wisdom realise that procuring meter by the consumers are very difficult going through the discos and they decide to ease that pain by licensing some, what we call Meter Asset providers so, it is this meter asset providers that actually provide meter to consumers now not the discos, discos now basically just point out their customers to some of their own accredited maps. This Meter Asset provider like in Eko for instance we have seven Meter Asset providers that we work with and out of this seven, five actually active so, procuring meter and repairing meters that are faulty is no longer in the hands of disco. This is not peculiar to Eko electricity distribution company, it is a cross board with all the other ten discos

Bekeme:  Right so, are they listed on your website, these meter asset providers?

Babatunde: yes, we have them, we have them on our website, we have their address and have their contact numbers. In addition to that, in all our district office because we have ten districts office across different areas of the state we have three within the island, Ibeju, Lekki  as well as island which is situated around Amadu Bello, then we have four around the central, we have in Orile we have in Ijora we have in Papa we have in Mushin and then we have in FESTAC, we have in OJO and we have in Agbara, those are the ten district offices we have. In addition to those ten district offices, we have zonal offices, which previously they undertaking offices, we have all those and at any of those offices or those zones, you can actually get information about how to procure your smart meters there, we have forms available in those offices, we have flyers that will tell you how to go about this forms. To question of getting laptop to fill your form, it is not compulsory that you have to fill this online. Online is because a lot of people said they do not need to get to our offices before they can complete their registration to procure meter which we agree, you do not have to come physically to any office because you want to get that, that is why we said, alternatively, you can log in online and get those form and fill it. But for those who cannot do that, if you go to any of those offices  I mentioned, you can get a physical form, which you can fill and then attach all the necessary documents required by the law, the NERC as well as the Government. These are the attachment, document that needed to be attached to those form before they can be procured. Those requirements are not stated by the Disco, it was the regulatory authority.

Bekeme: Just like use it like getting an electrician to fill a part of it?

Babatunde: The attachments  to your procuring application form for Meter are, passport photograph NEPA bill, if it is a building that was on the grid already, and then you need means of identification and then you need a stamp of a licensed electrical contractor. Why they request that, i will explain to you. you see they need a licensed electrician to know, to say that this place, the house in question, the wiring is done in a proper way that if you install that meter, it is not going to affect that meter within a short while, because you agree with me that some houses when they were building them. They use electricians that the way they do all the installation, they were not good enough, if you install anything, surge or anything can affect that. So, we just want a certified electrician to see that okay, the installation of the wiring is appropriate. If it is not done, then we can advise you that you need to get somebody to help you rework that so that by the time you install the meter, it won’t get bad after some few month.

Bekeme: So, I hear you now and you know, you constantly interface with the regulatory authorities, and we all know what the reality is for the typical Nigerian. you all know, I mean, we all know the settings in which they are leaving, right? There are people who still live in Wooden and nylon fabrication homes, there are people who live in one bed, you know, non-standard apartments in all sorts of areas that do not even have proper connection. So do we then ignore those who do we say you know what, because from what you have described, you are encouraging people to go for illegal connections because how are they able to certify this?

Babatunde: Well, as much as possible, what you said we are encouraging is actually what we are trying to protect people from. We do not want people to keep going through illegal connection.

Bekeme: But this has made it cumbersome.

Babatunde:  It is not cumbersome, you see, because it’s just to guard against some of the complaints that the customer you talked about mention, because when somebody has the house that has a wrong wiring and the person procured a meter of 37, 57,000 naira install it in January and by March the meter is bad because of the wires, the connection. The blame would be on the distribution company. That is what we are saying before we install the meter  get a licensed electrician to just help you check and this licensed electrician, you can get anybody around your area, some people don not even charge you. We all have relationships with electricians. we have people who are in this business.

Bekeme: yes, but are they licensed? Do we have an association that licenses electricians?

Babatunde: They have Association, they have license, yes.

Bekeme: So, is this available to the consumer? So, I am asking you, I have access to the internet, I am educated, I can search for things, but I do not even know any such right. And Mr. Babasola for instance, as an example, had access to a lawyer, and they did not even know how to get one. And I am looking on your website now, we talked about the fact that you have registered maps on your website, and you list Meter Asset providers on your website. And all I see here is a list of seven maps with no means of contacting them. It is just a list of seven names. Nothing, there is no way that we can contact them based on this. And I can bet anything on it that because of the way that internet infrastructure, the appreciation for online assets are they probably would not have functional websites that we could go to as well to get that information. So, do you see the complexity that we are talking about? And then if we go back to Mr. Babasola’s  issue as well, with, the providers, right, and the question that I had asked earlier, how, I mean, is it legal, for instance, to pay the electrician, you had said earlier that you have relationships with people. so, for instance, I do not know how to get one can I go to EKEDC or any of the discos to say provide me one, and then is there a standard rate? How are you also guiding this process to make it easier for your customers?

Babasola: this is a third- party services that you are requesting, EKEDC is not obliged to provide that for you.

Bekeme: I understand

Babatunde: so, because EKEDC is not obliged to provide you a licensed electrician to satisfy your form, So, I cannot tell you that this is what is going to pay for that. But what I know is that if you are procuring a service of anybody, the person is at liberty to charge you, whatever he feel that is what you want to charge you. so, I think it is legal If you ask for service of an electrician, for the person to charge you is just like when you need a notary public to stamp your form, they are at liberty to charge you a certain amount of money. So, in the same way, because it’s a professional service they are provided.

Bekeme: Right, okay. So, I hear you, but you see, when we talk about corporate social responsibility, you know, it is not just about philanthropy. Absolutely, it is about things like this alright, it’s about inclusion, Right? It is about taking that responsibility and ensuring that you have typically positive impacts on the on your key stakeholders. And I think that if you definitely have a key stakeholder it is your consumers. And if that process is a hurdle that they have to go through, to get to meter in order to get a basic necessity, electricity, I think it should be something that you should consider easing for them whether you know, whether you are obliged to or not, because it is part of your process. We talked about the fact that people go for months without electricity. So, the person complaints I am having challenges you my meter, is the first thought, you know what? go and even disconnect it which is what was done. Is that right, I go on disconnect it, and then since then, he has had like three or four different teams come to assess one thing or the other, there is no talk about Don not worry, we are making sure this thing is provided to you in short time. There is no clear, you know, process, there is no clear timeline, there is no SLA, right?

Babatunde: there is actually clear timeline, there is an SLA if you report a fault to us.

Bekeme: but I am saying that this man has had his for this length of time.

Babatunde: let me say this, a lot of customers, when they have complaints, they don not report at the appropriate place. I tell you, if you go to any of our offices and you report, we always try to tell our customer that insist on talking to a customer service officer or customer complaints officer and ensure that your complaints are logged and you get your log number. If you have this log number you can actually report to NERC that Okay, I have this log number, I reported this, and it has not been solved. Every disco is fined If a complaints is  logged against us, and it is not resolved within certain number of days, but because customers don not do that there is why at times you see that those faults or complaints are not resolved. We have an SLA’s for resolving issues. We have that, and to the point you talked about that when a meter is bad, and that they disconnect the lights and the person still get bill. When you have bill and you have been disconnected, we have a process for reconciliation. You just need to make broad evidence that during this period of billing, you were disconnected and your account would be reconciled and  the amount billed will be waived but people do not go and follow-up on this.

Bekeme: can I ask you a question? How is a bill even generated when there is no meter?

Babatunde: it is an automated system.

Bekeme: yeah, but it would have some information before you release that sort of information.

Babatunde: No, most time when you have automated system. It is after those things out to me because like if you do not have a smart meter and your house is on estimated billing, every month they will give you estimated billing based on the methodology they use to capture the billing in the area, at times they use statistical billing system whereby the transformer that fit your area to check out much energy consumed and then they estimated that around all the residents around that place and they give you your estimated billing based on the statistical reading on the transformer supplying your area, that is the methodology approved by NERC and that is what all the discos are using It is not peculiar to Eko, it is now the responsibility of the customer after you get that bill, if I get a bill for the month of March, and my power has been disconnected by February, what I need to do is that okay, this is the disconnection letter given to me in February, I did not use electricity for this period of march, and then they can check at the backend, oh, It is true and then they will reconcile that. it is as simple as that. the system is not perfect yet, we are getting there.

Bekeme: I Yes, I know. I like how you are saying it is as simple as you know that it is not as simple because all of us have jobs, some other things that we need to do, right? And we expect that when we pay for a service or expect or we wish to pay for a service that would receive stellar customer service, right. So, my meter has been disconnected since November 2019. I was privy to be part of a town hall meeting. This was actually organized by another member of our good citizen initiative. She runs a group called citizen connect Francisca, and that was where he made his complaint. So, firstly, this was an official complaint that he made. Right? And I would have thought, or one would have thought that this would be formally loved, and that there would be a system that would have this, you know, formally documented. now, from November to June, nothing. And then in August, he receives a bill for 14,857 naira.

Babatunde: Bekeme you just said that he made a comment at a forum, is the forum organized by Eko disco? Do you have Eko disco staff at that forum?

Bekeme: Yes. And they were the ones who then sent teams of people since then he has had at least three teams come to his house. And he felt like he was being harassed at some point because he felt, I mean, they are just coming and you know, making all sorts of inquiries asking all sorts of questions, but nothing is happening. And then he gets a bill for the first time. So, you know, you then wonder how did the systems pull that information?

Babatunde: This system is not perfect, like I told you, the system is not perfect. but we are getting there and like I said, the most important thing for customers to realise is that when you have complaints, you must ensure that your complaint are actually logged at the appropriate places, to the appropriate officers. Most times when you log complaint at a forum like that, it’s possible that the officers will represent Eko who is that’s a forum might not actually be the one in charge of logging fault, he will just get it and then pass the message to somebody who will not properly log that information. And in such situation, some of those things might actually fall by the wayside or people just fail to capture it appropriately. But when a customer login to the appropriate quarters and get a log for it, I think it is a lot easier, I am not saying that the customer is wrong for logging the complaints at that forum, what I am just saying, that is part of the imperfection of the system, which we are trying to improve on. We are not where we want to be in terms of the customer services or interface. But I know that we are trying, we move from where we used to be, and it is a gradual process we are going to get there. We apologize for some of those lapses and glitches, but we are working every day to improve the system to improve the processes to ensure that customers get value for the services they are paying for, we are working on that.

Bekeme: Okay, thank you. So, a couple of quick questions because we only have a few minutes left. Talking of metering really quick. Is this something to disclose make money from even though you say it has become a third party function?

Babatunde: Absolutely not. The only way disco make money is when your meter is installed and you pay every month, that is the only way we can get our income, if you don’t have the meter installed in your house, we only get on it from estimated billing, but it’s better for you to have your own smart meter so that you can pay for what you use.

Bekeme: So, if a customer you mentioned NERC, and the fact that customers can complain to them, if they have an issue, how does the customer reach NERC to complain they have an issue.

Babatunde: They have different offices around districts and then have different, they have Email, go to their website, you see a lot of emails, you see phone numbers there. You know, I am a customer, I live within Ikeja disco, and then I have had cause to report a matter to NERC because I was not getting joy. So, it is the same thing. I am affected just like every other customer.

Bekeme: Okay, good to hear. So, do you have as Eko distribution company an Ombudsman Service that helps to address some of these issues, without one needing to escalate to NERC for timely and efficient customer issue resolution?

Babatunde: Yes, we do.

Bekeme: how does one reach that service?

Babatunde: So like, most of the times, when you go to our website, or you go to some of our social media platforms, we tell people that you can actually make complaints through this number, through this email.

Bekeme: can you tell us this numbers, you are the head of Comms is there an email?

Babatunde: yes, there is an email customer

Bekeme: Are there functional numbers? Because numbers on your website did not work.

Babatunde: there is our customer care lines 07080655555

Bekeme: All right. So, thank you for this interesting call. I know that we are still left with many questions and I would say that EKEDC obviously has some work to do in terms of providing stellar customer service and all rounded service to your customers. We talked earlier about electricians and the fact that people need to get them. You know, we talked about the fact that as a business that should be focused on sustainability, there are ways that you can help for people to get certified electricians. Do you know of any guilds that people can approach to get certified electricians, for instance? If they are not, you know, you can start up a campaign communication are not very clear at the moment about so many things that you are doing. I did mention the website challenges and I think that you should think about inclusion strategies. Not everybody can afford a lawyer, not everybody has the luxury of time to come out and visit and then when the visits pay for other services as well. And then, you know, obviously, we need to work on our processes. Thank you Babatunde, do you have any final words for our listeners?

Babatunde: Well, like I said, we would like to apologize to our customer for some of the challenges they are having in accessing services. And we know that we are not where we really need to be. But we actually pulled in gradually, we are no longer where we used to be, but we are not there, but we are working every day to make our services a lot more easier and better. And we are promising to do this from time to time. So like I said, we have 10 district offices, we have zonal offices, and then we have our call our customer care line, we have emails, that you can actually reach us on our social media platforms as well, Twitter, Instagram, so we are there and we are always ready to attend to our customer, anytime, any day. thank you.

Bekeme: Thank you very much for your time. So, I hope that we also have access to you now that we have talked to you. All right.

Babatunde: Yes, thank you. This is my personal line. You can always reach me If I do not pick or WhatsApp or whatever text message I will get across to you as soon as possible. I will take I will make sure that we do that. Thank you so much. Thank you.

Babatunde: You are welcome.

Bekeme: Have a great day. Bye bye.

Bekeme: So, there you have it guys you were listening to Babatunde Lasaki, who is the Assistant General Manager Corporate Communications at EkEDC and you would agree that he was basically speaking for the other dosco’s because it is the same challenges customers have now if you have a challenge, you have to take matters into your hands and reach out to the service provider through the official means and documented. So, go to NERC and they have three processes by which you can rectify any challenges that you have with the Disco’s. Firstly, the first point they say that the first thing that they said that you must do is reach out to the disco in question. If you are not happy with that, go to NERC forum, which is the body set up by the NERC commission to entertain appeals from different customers. There is one for each area office of the Disco’s in the country. If you are still not happy with any of the resolutions reached, then you must write a petition to NERC take charge of your destiny. That is what makes you a good Nigerian. Thank you again for listening to the show. My name is Bekeme. And the show is brought to you by CSR-in-Action and funded by ACT foundation. Have yourselves a fantastic evening and keep on listening for next week’s show as we continue with the challenges that you have with metering and electricity in Nigeria. Bye

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