HUNDREDS of electricity consumers in Akwa Ibom State have criticised the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company for poor service delivery and prolonged power outage across the state.
The consumers, who said this during the PHED Consumers' Forum on Friday, revealed that some employees of the power company extort money from consumers through improper billing or paying for PHED equipment before installation.
The State Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. Akamba Awah, said mass retrenchment of former PHED employees might have been responsible for the menace.
"Inaccurate billings or crazy bills coupled with poor service, I believe, might be the direct result why consumers refuse to pay their bills," he said.
The company, however, said that it lost over seven million kilowatt-hours, an equivalent of over N238bn, to direct electricity theft, in a month.
Head, Revenue Protection Department, PHED, Mr. Nsika Udi, said that the direct tapping of energy, besides metre bypass, illegal connection, and fraud in billing, accounted for 80 per cent power theft.
He added that the energy theft was not restricted to direct stealing of energy by the consumers that had not been officially connected to the grid or those that had diverted load from the visibility of the energy metre alone.
According to him, energy theft extends to individuals that have been billed, but deliberately refused to pay or cheat during payment.
He said 60 per cent of customers do not pay their bills/vending, noting that the development resulted in the company losing over 30MW, equivalent to N2 billion average monthly.
Udi pointed out that 10 percent of prepaid customers had not vended since they had been connected and 43.53 per cent of the prepaid customers last vended over six months ago.
"The most critical challenge facing the distribution sector is how to reduce the technical, commercial and collection losses.
"We lose 7,581,289.63 KWH or N238, 333,002 from direct energy theft alone. Non-payment of bills/vending accounts for over 60 percent of the monthly aggregate technical, commercial and collection losses and this amounts to 30MW or N2bn average monthly losses.
"We also noted that 10 per cent prepaid customers have never vended since they were connected over three months ago while 43.53 per cent of prepaid customers last vended over six months ago. We have also recorded 27.32 per cent bypass from 571 prepaid metres audited during plug the bleeding initiatives," he said.