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General News of Sunday, 21 November 2021

Source: www.nairametrics.com

Updated: Court orders Abuja Disco to pay a customer N10million for “illegal disconnection” of prepaid meter

Abuja DisCo personnel Abuja DisCo personnel

An Abuja High Court has ordered the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company Plc. (AEDC) to pay a customer, Ifeyinwa Ikeatuegwu the sum of N10 million for unlawful disconnection of her prepaid metre.

Justice K.N Ogbonnaya made this ruling in Abuja on Friday, December 11, 2020, following a suit filed against AEDC by Ikechukwu Ikogwe, the plaintiff’s counsel on her behalf.

In her ruling, Justice Ogbonnaya ordered the defendant (AEDC) to pay the plaintiff the sum of N10 million as exemplary and punitive damage for illegally disconnecting her electricity without due notice. She also ordered AEDC to pay the plaintiff the sum of one thousand naira daily until the day AEDC reconnects her electricity supply.

Backstory
On May 7, 2020, two AEDC officials visited the plaintiff’s residence to inspect her prepaid metre. After touching the prepaid metre, they accused her of tampering with the metre and slammed a N200 thousand fine on her and requested her presence in their office.

Three days later, the AEDC officials returned to her residence and disconnected her electricity supply without any issuance of a notice of disconnection as stipulated by the law governing connection and disconnection of electricity supply in Nigeria.

On June 16, 2020, the plaintiff (Ifeyinwa) instituted the suit against the defendant (AEDC) marked FCT/CV/1849/20 seeking among others, an order of the court compelling AEDC to pay the sum of N150 million as exemplary and punitive damages for its lawlessness and the said unlawful disconnection.

What happened in court
Plaintiff’s counsel, Ikechukwu Ikogwe submitted that the action of the defendant on May 7, 2020, was unlawful, null and void and of no effect having regard to Reg.10 (1) (2) (b) of NERC customer service standard of performance for Distribution companies (DisCos).

He went further to submit that by Regulation 10 (2) NERC’s customer service standard performance for Distribution companies 2007, the defendants and its officials are not legally enabled or empowered to read, check, touch and fiddle claimants pre-paid metre as they did on May 7, 2020, at her property.

Counsel to AEDC, J.O Okete filed a motion of preliminary objection dated December 3, 2020, seeking an order of the court to strike out the suit for lack of competence and jurisdiction.

However, the presiding judge after listening to arguments from both counsels dismissed the motion of preliminary objection by AEDC and delivered its judgement against AEDC.

AEDC is yet to comply with the court order which resulted in the plaintiff’s counsel filing a garnishee proceeding before the court on January 8, 2021, seeking the enforcement of the judgement dated December 11, 2020.

While Ikeatuegwu is the judgement creditor in the garnishee proceeding, AEDC is the judgment debtor.

The banks were invited by the court to show cause, why an order should not be made upon them for the payment of the judgement creditor and two banks came forth and disclosed that AEDC had more than enough money to satisfy the judgement debt.

While the garnishee proceeding was ongoing, AEDC’s counsel filed another motion asking the court to set aside the garnishee proceeding.

The court then directed two commercial banks to set aside the judgement money from AEDC’s money domiciled in those two banks pending the hearing of the two applications filed by AEDC.

Judgement of the court
The judgement read in part, “The defendant is to pay the plaintiff ten million naira (N10,000,000,00) as exemplary and punitive damage for illegally disconnecting her light without due notice and in violation of the extant provisions of the Act and regulations.”

“The defendant is also to pay the plaintiff one thousand naira per day from the 11th of May, 2020 until they reconnect electricity supply to her premises.”

The judge held that AEDC can only do inspection and disconnection where necessary following due procedure of law as provided and laid down in the Act and subsidiary legislation.

Today November 12, is slated for hearing of the two applications at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Kubwa.

What you should know
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission is an independent regulatory body with authority for the regulation of the electric power industry in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission’s customer service standards of performance for distribution companies 2007, exempt prepaid metres from routine checks.

Tampering with an electricity metre is a criminal offence.

The law governing connection and disconnection of electricity supply is the Nigerian electricity regulatory Commission’s connection and disconnection procedures for electricity services 2007.

The law stipulates that before disconnecting a customer, you have to issue a notice for at least 10 days. And whenever a distribution company disconnects electricity supply to a customer’s premises they shall leave a written notice of disconnection advising the customer the following:

The date and time of disconnection
The reason for disconnection
The action to be taken by the customer to have the electricity supply reconnected; and
The contact address and telephone number of the distribution company.
By Regulation 10 sub-regulation (2) NERC’s customers’ service standard of performance for Distribution Companies 2007, AEDC and its officials are not legally enabled or empowered to check, touch, Reed, and fiddle prepayment metres of customers.
Regulation 10 (1) states that: “ Every Distribution company SHALL obtain through its authorised representative an actual reading of all metres in all supply address within its areas of supply every month but not later than once in every three months.
However Regulation 10 (2) (b) states that “The provision of sub-regulation 1 of this shall be inapplicable where the customer has a prepayment metre.”

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