The ongoing installation of prepaid meters by the Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO) in the Katsina metropolis is generating a lot of public outcry as getting the meters to work has become a source of frustration to consumers in the state.
In its bid to put an end to estimated billing in the state, KEDCO said it is targeting not fewer than 70,000 households in the Katsina State capital in the ongoing prepaid meter installation.
However, DAILY POST reliably gathered that the exercise is experiencing some drawbacks which if not properly tackled may cause electricity consumers to devise means of bypassing its usage if they are not already doing so.
Instead of improving access to electricity for the newly metered in the state, the prepaid meter is rather plunging its users into darkness while the unmetered enjoy electricity.
DAILY POST observed that at KEDCO Business Unit in Katsina, scores of consumers queued up to resolve one problem or the other with the prepaid meter.
While interacting with some of the consumers, our correspondent gathered that the problems with the prepaid meter are centered primarily on the inability of its users to successfully recharge them without experiencing one hindrance or the other.
In an attempt to recharge the prepaid meter after exhausting the free initial 20 units of electricity, consumers are thrown into the dark as efforts to buy new units often prove abortive.
DAILY POST reliably gathered that some customers have been battling with the issue for over a month.
One of the customers who narrated his ordeal said he has been trying to buy electricity for his house and shop since before the last Sallah celebration but has not been able to, a situation frustrating his cold drink business.
“I am honestly tired of this come today come tomorrow story. My home and shop has been in darkness since before Sallah that the prepaid meter was installed for me and this is seriously affecting my cold drink business,” he lamented.
Another customer, while speaking to DAILY POST, said the problem started after he successfully paid for some units of electricity using an online platform and was sent a token which refused to load.
After several failed attempts to load the token, he decided to call KEDCO customer care phone line and he was advised to report to the nearest KEDCO office to register his complaint.
At the office, the KEDCO staff who attended to him attributed his predicament to using an online platform for the initial recharge of the prepaid meter.
According to the KEDCO staff, if the initial recharge were done from the office, the customer would not have encountered any problem loading it.
However, to resolve the issue he said they will have to contact KEDCO head office to send the customer a new reset pin token which may take 24 hours considering the crowd of people he had to attend to.
Contrary to his claim, our correspondent, who has been monitoring the development for some time now, gathered that there were cases of customers who made the initial purchase from the Katsina business unit experiencing similar challenges as well as those who bought online.
One of the KEDCO staff who spoke to this medium on condition of anonymity said that some of the challenges faced by the customers are as a result of sheer ignorance on how to operate the prepaid meter.
“We have had countless consumers come here to complain over one issue or the other but we have also discovered that some of them cannot simply input the token correctly while some of them need someone to follow them home and help them load the token,” he said.
KEDCO’s Head of Corporate Communications, Ibrahim Sani Shawal, when contacted said its management is assuring all its numerous customers that have not been reached or encountering one challenge or the other with the prepaid meters to exercise patience and continually report the challenge with the ongoing metering programme as their staff are working tirelessly to bring the issues to an end.
Shawwal however, appealed to customers to shun any attempts to bypass meters as this will amount to compromising the efforts of the management in its bid to end estimated billing within its catchment.
He further appealed to community leaders and other stakeholders to assist KEDCO in ensuring that the metering initiative remains successful within the Kano franchise going forward, by reporting such illegal acts to their nearest offices or security agents.