Director General, Consumer Protection Council, CPC, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, has advised the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Bar. Babatunde Fashola to introduce policies and regulatory measures that will, among others, set the ground norms for the licensing and operation of estate developers, standardize housing development, and check the arbitrary and unjust treatment of consumers in the housing sector.
Atoki, made the appeal when she paid a courtesy visit to the minister in Abuja. She urged the minister to hold operators in power and housing sectors accountable to their contracts with consumers in the country.
The DG also lamented that despite measures being put in place by the nation’s electricity industry regulators to ensure effective service delivery, CPC was still receiving myriads of consumer complaints against operators in the sector.
She disclosed that some of these complaints include non-metering of consumers, which results in estimated and arbitrary billing of a huge consumer population; non-supply of infrastructure requirements, such as transformers, electric poles and cables to some business units, thereby forcing consumers to pay for same without reimbursement; and irregular disconnection.
She also pointed out that in the housing sector, “many estate developers engage in the dubious practice of collecting money from unsuspecting consumers without delivering on the promise to provide them with houses”, adding that “even when houses are delivered to consumers, they are usually of very poor quality”.
The Director General requested the minister to “evolve a quick means of reversing the compulsion of consumers by electricity Distribution Companies DISCOs, to pay for services not rendered”, stressing that “business practice that compels consumers to pay for services not rendered is clearly exploitative”.
She also charged the minister to prioritize consumers’ interests in policy formulation in the power sector
On the consumers’ concerns in the housing sector, the director general observed that the uncontrolled activity of estate developers without proper regulation has not worked well for consumers and the housing sector, noting with dismay that “Self-regulation in the sector by professional bodies has only been protective of members (estate developers)”.
She, however, commended the minister for coming up with consumer-centred agenda for the three key sectors, Power, Works & Housing, under his portfolio, particularly his commitment to ensure significant improvement in electricity supply to consumers to measure up with increase in tariff.
Responding, the Minister commended renewed vibrancy of CPC, stating that “that Council is standing up will raise standards of service delivery, it will hold service providers, including myself, the ministry to account for the quality of service we render”.
On consumer concerns in the power sector, he argued that much as the consumers are regarded as the king, they must also realize that they have duties to acquaint themselves “with the process under which electricity is now being provided.
“All of us must know that our service providers have changed. This is the beginning of ownership. Ownership is important because no DISCO can fix a tariff without your participation. It is not possible. The discos must prove that people participated in the discussion for a new tariff. That’s what the law provides for and that is what has happened. Before a tariff is fixed, it is a must that the DISCOs must advertise by radio, by TV or by a combination of all. And they must file a return of those who attended the discussion. That is only when NERC even allowed the discussion. So as a consumer when these notices are up, get involved” he asserted.
The minister contended further: “As it concerns tariff, our role as a ministry is really not to take sides, but to ensure that we hold DISCOs to their service levels, to ensure that generating companies GENCOs, perform to their service level. We also ensure that we stand in the balance between them and consumers in such a way that they should not profiteer from consumers.
He added: “I think that this last tariff seeks to achieve that. That is my opinion. This last tariff responded to the huge outcry against the fixed charge. It stopped fixed charge. That is a consumer sensitive tariff. One of the things that this tariff did was if you dispute your last bill when you don’t have a meter, then pay your last undisputed bill to show good faith”.

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