BY CHUKS OLUIGBO.
Some Meter Asset Providers in the country have strongly denied the allegation by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that they diverted funds meant for mass metering of electricity consumers.
Mojec International Limited and Protogy Global Services Limited on Tuesday described the accusation as baseless, unfounded, and capable of hurting the Nigerian economy.
This is coming after the news broke that the CBN has asked for a court order to freeze 157 accounts of Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) for allegedly diverting funds meant for the procurement of prepaid meters.
The Cable reported that the CBN, in a suit filed at the Federal High Court in Lokoja, Kogi State, on July 20, asked commercial banks to restrict the account of 10 companies which it said received power sector intervention funds under the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) for 180 days pending the outcome of its investigation.
The companies mentioned by the CBN are Mojec Meter Asset Management Company Limited, Protogy Global Services Limited, Integrated Power Nigeria Limited, Holley Metering Limited, Turbo Energy Limited, G Unit Engineering Limited, Koby Global Engineering Services Limited, FLT Energy Systems Limited, Smart Meters Asset Provider Company Limited, and Cresthill Engineering Limited.
The CBN said it reviewed the activities of 12 Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) alleged to have diverted its power sector intervention funds under the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) in order to ascertain the flow of the funds made available to the MAPs between January 1, 2020 and March 15, 2022. It said the preliminary review revealed that the defendants, the 10 companies listed, “diverted a substantial portion of the funds for other uses through related entities and individuals/companies connected to the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) and the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN)”.
But in a quick response to the allegation, Chantelle Abdul, managing director of Mojec, said the CBN’s action amounted to defamation of character and that the company would sue the apex bank over the matter.
Abdul said payment for the metering scheme was performance-based and the CBN only paid for what the company had delivered. She said Mojec had been defying the harsh operating environment in the country to source finance to help bridge the metering gap and so did not deserve such treatment by the CBN.
“This is complete defamation of our company. Before NMMP showed up, we had been metering Nigerians. We have been borrowing money from the banks to help the Nigerian power sector collect revenue through metering,” Abdul said.
“I cannot be stealing from myself. Nothing of such happened and this is not the right way to pay us for the efforts we have been putting into the business. We are ready and we will sue for defamation. Our records are out there,” she said.
On his part, Ademola Agoro, managing director of Protogy, said the accusations by the CBN “is completely wrong”. He provided documents detailing the number of meters supplied across DisCos and payments expected from the supplied meters.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), in a bid to help the new power sector investors to fast-track the rollout of meters through the engagement of third-party investors introduced the MAP regulation on April 3, 2018. The Meter Asset Provider companies were subsequently issued permits to begin the rollout of new meters by May 1, 2019, and the Federal Government gave the new policy a push by providing a grant of N37 billion for the supply of the meters. And in October 2020, the NMMP kicked off.
However, of the 11,069,200 registered electricity customers in Nigeria as of September 2021, only 4,753,027 (or 42.93 percent) have been metered, according to data from NERC’s 2021 third-quarter report.
Meanwhile, the CBN said the diversion of the power sector intervention funds under the NMMP has further occasioned grave instability in the power sector and sustained the estimated billing regime which the Federal Government is making frantic efforts to resolve.
“The diversion of the said funds through the bank accounts of the defendants has continually undermined the applicant’s bank intervention system of supporting various sectors of the Nigerian economy,” the CBN said.
“The diversion of the said funds and sustained instability in the power sector is capable of causing significant economic and financial loss to investors, as well as the entire systems and the Nigerian economy in general, if not curtailed,” it said.