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Editorial

Applying technology in fuel, pipelines monitoring, DISCOs meter bypass, bills payment

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EnegyDay Editorial

 

Nigerians are again in the grip of new year, and again, governments at different levels have rehashed the yearly ritual of making commitments to better the lives of the citizens; very long on the promises but short on the modalities to use to do things differently to bring about better life.

But for the average Nigerians, counting on government’s promises may not be an endearing and attractive path given long years of hope-lifting but failed promises.

Thus the new year begins in uncertainty over the direction of the economy, proposed hike in fuel and electricity prices as a result of the planned end to subsidies, the citizens are beginning to fret and there is much ado about everything ranging from Insecurity, to hardship that may arise from government’s action according to the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC.

Towards the tail end of the year, there were reports of hoarding of fuel by marketers as a fallout of proposed hike; in order to create artificial scarcity to make room for profiteering at the expense of Nigerians.

This is condemnable and is yet another manifestation of our propensity for unbridled profit at the expense of patriotism and public good.

But the path is a trodden one, and government’s response has always been tepid and perfunctory, with the usual ritual of dealing with perpetrators of hoarding of fuel.

We recall in March 2021, when there was similar existential threat to stability in fuel supply, the Department of Petroleum Resources had come out roaring like an angry lion, threatening to deal with disruptions.

Then it said its officials would move from one fuel station to another to check these incidences upon information, but how many petrol stations can they manually monitor and patrol.

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) then said it would not hesitate to impose sanctions on marketers engaged in hoarding petroleum products.

In a statement then, Sarki Auwalu, director of DPR, said the warning was as a result of the reports of hoarding in some states across Nigeria.

Auwalu explained that available records showed there was product sufficiency in the country and there was no need for hoarding by any marketer.

“The DPR will not hesitate to apply appropriate sanctions on any outlet found wanting in this regard,” he said.
“The regulatory agency has set up a special taskforce to intensify surveillance and monitoring of all retail outlets and depots nationwide to check the anomaly.”

EnergyDay finds the readiness of DPR to deploy officials to move from one station to another to monitor disruptions through hoarding strange, when in reality, there is adequate technology that can be used to effectively do this.

There is a need for our agencies to begin to embrace modern technology and move away from analogue thinking to the digital and the technological.

The electricity sector according to experts and stakeholders have numerous challenges, of pertinence is the twin issues of meter theft and bypass.

Yet, there was a time when the National Electricity Regulatory Agency, NERC, said it was in possession of a technology that could detect meter bypass. What happened to that revolutionary technology in the face of avalanches of such incidences?

This sector is also suffering from the analogue syndrome, as many of the challenges relating to energy theft and meter bypass can easily be solved through application of technology.

Strangely, we at EnergyDay are at loss as to what happened to the hype in 2017 of DISCOS being in possession of technology that can detect disruptions.

According to reports at the time, consumers who bypass their meters may start facing sanctions by paying penalties as soon as electricity distribution companies have commenced the deployment of meter bypass tracking equipment in their various networks.

It was gathered that the move by the power firms was to enforce the recent declaration by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission that consumers who bypass meters would pay fines.

Recall that NERC had earlier said that electricity consumers who bypassed their meters would be forced to pay up to N450,000 as fine.

According to NERC, financial sanctions ranging from N50,000 to N450,000 for meter bypass by power consumers have been drafted and endorsed by the 11 electricity distribution companies operating in the country.

It was also gathered that NERC’s decision was endorsed by the Federal Government through the then Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.

The Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, Ernest Mupwaya, reportedly told the media then that , “On the issue of meter bypass, I don’t want to share (this), but we do have a technology to detect it. For example, all our large power customers, for the majority of them, we are monitoring them online using automatic meter reading facilities that we have installed.

“And every day, unfortunately, we are seeing meter bypass live and we are taking punitive interventions in terms of revealing them (defaulters) and surcharging them. So, for large power users, the monitoring is online. Let me just categorically say that they should not even attempt, it, because they will be caught.”

He said, “Some customers complain that their meters are running too fast and as a result, we have got portable meters that can be used for testing when hooked up with existing meters. When this is done, within few minutes we can detect whether our meter is faulty or not.

“That equipment can also be used to make corrections where customers believe estimated billing is high. At such instances, we can put a meter there temporarily and it will give us information that will make us adjust the estimated billing. So it is equipment that can be used for various purposes.”

Mupwaya stated that the Disco had taken delivery of infra-red cameras for detecting installations that might develop electrical faults in the future.

“Technologies such as infra-red cameras are used during inspection to foresee areas that are referred to as hot spots. A hot spot is a fault that is trying to manifest. So, if you can see it in advance and take out the line to prevent the fault, then it means you are taking proactive steps to avert prolonged outages,” he added.

At EnergyDay, we believe part of the challenge we have as a nation is our Inability to actually identify our needs and poverty of ideas to remove such challenges holistically.

From modern warfare to the economy to management of oil and gas and other critical sectors, technology has come to play a large role.

There is a need for government to use technology in all of these processes including the monitoring of pipelines where drones could come in handy among other technology.

It is embarrassing that regulators, in this jet age, are still going about with vans to monitor pipelines and vandals. There are apps (or even drones) that can be used to so this.

Except some government officials are benefitting from the system, there is no reason why they should not consider adopting technology to checkmate fuel scarcity by 2022.

Agitators from host communities should also be converted to keep watch on them.

We are aware of the fact that DISCOS have been complaining about low collection. Applying technology like the smart meters should help to monitor meter bypass.

We encourage government and its agencies to begin the process of applying technology to problem solving, and as it contemplates subsidies removal, it should preempt saboteurs in oil sector who may want to hoard the product in order to create artificial scarcity as a pretext to impose further hardship on Nigerians, even before the expected removal of subsidies.

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