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Let the Poor Breathe: Nigerians React to FG’s Hike in Prepaid Meter Prices

The Federal Government of Nigeria has sparked outrage and criticism from Nigerians after it announced a hike in the prices for single and three-phase prepaid meters to N81,975 and N143,836 respectively. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) said that the price increase was to ensure fair and reasonable pricing of meters to both Meter Asset Providers and end-user customers, and to enable the MAPs to recover reasonable costs associated with meter procurement and maintenance. The price increase took effect from September 6, 2023.

However, many Nigerians have expressed their dissatisfaction and frustration with the decision, saying that it is unfair, insensitive and exploitative. They argued that the price hike will further burden the poor and vulnerable Nigerians who are already struggling with high electricity tariffs, poor power supply, inflation, unemployment and poverty. They also accused the government of being insensitive to the plight of the masses who are facing multidimensional poverty and can afford basic amenities.

Some Nigerians took to social media platforms to vent their anger and disappointment with the government.

“This is wickedness of the highest order. How can they increase the price of prepaid meters by almost 100%? Do they want us to die of darkness? #LetThePoorBreathe” A twitter user exclaimed. Some civil society groups and consumer rights activists have also condemned the price hike and called on the government to reverse it immediately. They said that the price hike will violate the rights of consumers to affordable and quality electricity service. They also said that the price hike will undermine the efforts of the government to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030.

The groups also threatened to mobilize Nigerians for mass protests and legal actions if the government fails to heed their demands. They said that they will not allow the government to impose unjust and oppressive policies on Nigerians without resistance.

The government has not yet responded to the reactions and demands of Nigerians regarding the price hike. However, some analysts have speculated that the government may be under pressure from the MAPs who have complained of low returns on their investments due to exchange rate fluctuations, inflation, vandalism and meter bypassing.

The issue of prepaid metering has been a contentious one in Nigeria for many years. Many Nigerians have opted for prepaid meters as a way of avoiding estimated billing, which they consider arbitrary and fraudulent. However, many Nigerians have also faced challenges in accessing prepaid meters due to scarcity, high cost, long waiting time and corruption.

The government had launched several initiatives such as the Meter Asset Provider Regulation in 2018 and the National Mass Metering Programme in 2020 to address these challenges and ensure that every electricity consumer in Nigeria has a prepaid meter. However, these initiatives have not been able to meet the demand for prepaid meters in Nigeria, which is estimated at over 10 million.

The latest price hike by the government has added another layer of difficulty for Nigerians who want to access prepaid meters. Many Nigerians have expressed their hope that the government will reconsider its decision and listen to their cries for affordable and reliable electricity service.