The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has launched an application designed to help citizens to report power outage complaints and disruptions across the country.
NERC’s Chairperson, Sanusi Garba, who unveiled the application during its launch in Abuja on Monday, emphasized the commission’s commitment to enhancing customer service.
Garba highlighted that the app aligns with the recently introduced consumer protection regulation, which sets specific timelines for public utilities, particularly distribution companies (DisCos), to address customer complaints.
“I think a lot of you can recall that we recently launched a new consumer protection regulation that provides timelines within which public utilities, and especially distribution companies (DisCos), are required to resolve complaints by customers.
“So, this particular app that we have launched today is supposed to assist the commission in monitoring that DisCos are actually complying with the standards set out in that regulation,” Garba said.
He said the app’s primary purpose was originally to assess power supply quality, but NERC decided to leverage it to monitor DisCos more effectively.
The NERC Chairperson encouraged citizens to utilize the app for complaints, assuring them of prompt responses to enhance their trust in both the commission and the DisCos.
He also revealed that the app’s rollout would start in Abuja and expand nationally to cover all distribution companies, with priority given to areas with the highest complaint levels.
“We decided to start this launch with Abuja. There’ll be a national rollout for all distribution companies. Such a massive application would require some test run and so on.
“So, AEDC is like a guinea pig for the app but we’ll quickly extradite the rollout to other distribution companies but obviously the DisCos where we are having the highest level of complaints will be ranked higher in terms of the rollout,” he said.
Christopher Ezeafulukwe, Chairperson of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), praised the collaborative effort behind the app, emphasizing its potential benefits for all stakeholders.
He stressed that customer feedback is vital for distribution companies to improve services.
“I dare say feedback from our customers is actually for the distribution company, what I would call our feedstock,” the AEDC chair said.
“It is the raw material that we need to be able to deliver the services that we actually contract to provide.
“One big takeaway is that the app we’re about to launch is a product of collaboration between the commission, the distribution company, and eventually the customers. It then implies that it’s going to be a win-win for all of us.
“On the part of the regulator, it’s already been said that it will be greater oversight and not just oversight for oversight sake but to ensure that value is not just being created but being sustained and protected.
“On the part of the distribution company, this will actually help catalyse more data-based decisions on our part.”
Regarding the app’s functionality, the NERC Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, Aisha Mahmud explained that the commission collaborated with DisCos to collect data on hours of supply to customers in various service bands.
“It utilises multi-channel approach. We liaised with the different distribution companies and obtained a lot of data on their customers,” she said.
“So if you’re a customer of a DisCo and you are being supplied by the DisCo, your information is already stored in that app.
“If you have a complaint on any outage, there are multiple channels. There is a web app and a mobile app, so you can download it on your phone through Apple or Google store. You just need your meter number.
“You download the app, you put your meter number and then after that, you log in your complaint and the app will automatically send a confirmation to the customers on that particular feeder of yours to find out if there is really an outage.
“If there is, then we need about two to three customers to confirm that there is an outage on that feeder.
“As soon as they confirm that, the app will send that confirmation to the DisCo with a resolution timeline and as soon as the DisCo resolves this complaint, then the DisCo will update the app saying ‘we’ve resolved this complaint’ and the app will automatically send another confirmation request to those customers on that particular feeder.”
Mahmud noted that the project began two years ago but experienced delays due to bureaucratic processes.