Thursday, 29 July 2010

Paying for NEPA or not?

If you read one of my earlier posts you will have heard about NEPA and PHCN.  NEPA stands for Nigerian Electric Power Authority or Never Expect Power Again.  NEPA is in the process of being privatised, which is supposed to increase access to electricity, in the mean time it is being "held" by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria or Problem Has Changed Name.

Now I can't remember the numbers but loads of Nigerians do not have access to electricity, and lots more is not being paid for.  In fact one evening when I was buying suya, (roasted meat) I noticed that all the stalls had electric lightbulbs but I couldn't hear a generator, and looked up to see some "free" electricity being "stolen" from a streetlight.

Anyway until last week I was under the illusion that I too was enjoying "free" electricity, and yes as a Brit I should have learnt by now that as there is no such thing as a free lunch, neither is there free electricity.  Our meter doesn't work, and we haven't received a bill though we have been in the property since April, but last week a bill was delivered for 20,000 Naira, and we understood it was from February.

Now this was only last Friday (22nd), despite the date on the bill being the 15th July, so we asked VSO for money for Feb and March (when a previous volunteer was there) and put our resources together to pay the fee.

Meanwhile yesterday evening, we were sitting in the dark, enjoying the quiet, when it occurred to me that no light and quiet don't go together, no light goes with noise, generator noise.  No light and quiet goes with no electricity to our flat only!

So yes the watchman confirmed that a big group, (no he couldn't stop them) had come and disconnected our power.  So a trip to PHCN to pay the bill, the first lady sends us to a different office, who sends us to a different building the other side of town where we pay 20,000Naira.  I asked how soon we could be reconnected she said we had to go back to the other side of town with a photocopy of our paid bill, (we even had to pay 5 Naira for the photocopy)  I did make the suggestion that she could just phone them for us, email them, to much hilarity.  I managed not to suggest that she just updated the database, even our office of 12 people isn't properly networked.

So we go back to the other side of town and they promise that they will reconnect us today, but I'm not banking on it.

Now we complained about why they hadn't given us more time to pay, they seem to think we have already had several bills, can they change the meter, yes it costs about 56,000 Naira, that's more than a months wages for a VSO volunteer, so I guess we try to persuade the landlord and in the meantime get used to how to pay for NEPA.

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