Reps pass bill to criminalise estimated electricity billing

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed three bills sponsored by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, one of which seeks to criminalise estimated billing of electricity consumers by distribution companies.

When the proposed law is concurred with by the Senate and assented to by the President, it will become criminal for service providers to issue estimated bills, also known as ‘crazy bills’, issuance of which would attract either a one-year jail term or a fine of one million Naira or both.

The proposed law would also compel a distribution company to provide prepaid meter to an applicant within 30 days, while barring the DISCOs from disconnecting the consumer after the 30-day period within which meter should be installed.

The Electric Power Sector Reform Act (Amendment) Bill 2018, which Gbajabiamila, then as Majority Leader, presented in the Eighth National Assembly, was re-presented in July 2019.

The bill is entitled, ‘A bill for an act to amend the electric power sector reforms Act to prohibit and criminalise estimated billing by electricity distribution companies and provide for compulsory installation of pre-paid meters to all power consumers in Nigeria and other related matters.’

Leading the debate on the bill, Gbajabiamila condemned the DISCOs for whimsically issuing estimated bills on a monthly basis.

“This billing is not known by any scientific rule,” he stated.

The House also passed a bill seeking to make Federal Government ministries, departments and agencies reserve 20 per cent of job slots for persons living with disabilities.

It is entitled, “A bill for an act to provide that 20 per cent of jobs available in all Federal Government ministries, departments, agencies and companies be distributed amongst the physically challenged persons in Nigeria and for other matters connected thereto.’

Another bill passed was one seeking to create a bank that grants interest-free loans to students of tertiary institutions in the country.

The bill is entitled, ‘A bill for an act to provide easy access to higher education for Nigerians through interest-free loans Nigerian Education Bank established in this act with a view to providing education for all Nigerians.’

The bill stated that the provision of the proposed law shall apply to all matters pertaining to the application and grant of loans to Nigerians seeking admission into institutions of higher learning in Nigeria through the Nigerian Education Bank.