Recent opening of a local electric meter manufacturing factory in Onna Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State is a welcome development as it marked the era of privately owned local manufacturing of electric meters in Nigeria.
When in November 2013 the Federal Government privatised the Power Holding Company (PHCN), the buyers did not envisage problems.
Since then the 11 distribution companies (Discos) have been struggling to meet the metering deadline of five years contained in their Purchasing Agreements (PAs) with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). A modicum of progress was made in the metering of customers.
But, the Discos have been citing weak capital as the major reason for their inability to meter all their customers. They blamed illiquidity for their inability to meter the customers and their banks’ failure to provide them credits to purchase meters.
Nigeria is a country with great potential for development. Almost all sectors of the country’s economy need electricity to stimulate development. Unfortunately, no appreciable economic development can be made in an economy with inadequate supply of electric power. Even with the erratic and unstable power supply in the country, electricity supply to homes and industries have over the years been bedevilled by insufficient supply of metering machines.
As Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo rightly observed at the inauguration of the metering company, Nigeria’s economic development is hinged on effective power supply. Without doubt, availability of a good electric metering device is part of an effective power supply.
Herein lies the importance of the new electric meter manufacturing company.
Since the privatisation of electric distribution companies a few years ago, the electric distribution companies (Discos) have been complaining of inadequate supply of meters. In the main, the Discos complained about their lack of funds to purchase meters for onward sale to their customers, thus limiting the quantity of orders they could purchase from local suppliers of the product who also had to import them from overseas. The introduction of prepaid metering system made it easier for the Discos to collect their money upfront from electric power consumers while it has enabled electric power consumers too to pay in advance for whatever quantity of electric power they would want to enjoy.
In many parts of the country attempts by the Discos to make unmetered consumers of electric power to pay have been unsuccessful. Also, the Discos resort to the use of estimated bills has not helped matters as, in most cases, such consumers avoid payment for the electricity they used.
The new electric power metering factory which is a partnership between the Akwa Ibom government and some private investors is expected to put the state on the path of industrialisation. It will manufacture an average of one million meters per year but can be increased later to produce up to 2.7 million units of meters per year.
If anything, the Akwa Ibom example is an example of fruitful collaboration between the public and the private sectors in an uncharted area that used to be controlled by the Federal Government. The Akwa Ibom State example has shown that with approval from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) a state government, just like any private entrepreneur, can invest in any area of the power sector. It is expected that many local and foreign investors will follow the example of the investors in the metering company to set up factories in Akwa Ibom State and other parts of the country.