Electric Shock

Nigerians dodging their bills hold back electricity generation growth

By David Whitehouse

Premium badge Reserved for subscribers

Posted on January 20, 2022 15:53

nigeria energy
Electric wires are pictured in Ojuelegba district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, Nigeria June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

Khalil Woli used to work for Ikeja Electric, Nigeria’s largest power distribution network, in Lagos. He would go door to door in 2018, checking on electricity meters to see who was trying to dodge paying.

The people who would try to avoid their bills, he says, were often wealthy. They would not pay for their consumption because it seemed easy and they thought they would never get caught. “They had been doing it for years and no one ever knocked on their door before.”

The widespread cheating meant that electricity distribution companies were “haemorrhaging cash,” Woli says. Part of his job was to work out which areas were cheating and which were not, with Ikeja then diverting electricity to the paying areas. Some people even tried to bribe Woli when he showed up. “Let’s pretend this never happened,” he remembers being told.

The cheats were asking the wrong guy. These days, Woli is an equity research analyst at CardinalStone in Lagos. There has been an improvement in meter deployment in Lagos since 2018, he says. He is enthusiastic about government plans to ramp up the use of meters and

There's more to this story

Get unlimited access to our exclusive journalism and features today. Our award-winning team of correspondents and editors report from over 54 African countries, from Cape Town to Cairo, from Abidjan to Abuja to Addis Ababa. Africa. Unlocked.

Subscribe Now

cancel anytime