Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (Ikeja Electric) has required its prepaid electricity consumers to link NIN (National Identification Number) to electricity meters, and this is not justifiable in law.
Chantelle Abdul, the CEO of MOJEC Meters Company, an electricity smart metering service provider, said Ikeja Electric rightly demanded that its customers – including prepaid customers – link NIN to the electricity meter because NIN will help the Disco to identify its consumers and reduce energy theft.
Mojec’s CEO, Chantelle Abdul, insisted on Channels Television that linking NIN to electricity meters is long overdue in the electricity services market.
The Moject’s CEO did not distinguish pre-paid consumers – who are the majority – from post-paid customers in the electricity services market.
What do the NIMC Act 2007, and its Regulations say?
The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act 2007 and the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number Regulations, 2017 are the definitive twin legislation that governs services whether private or public that require NIN as a pre-condition or condition to access such services.
Prepaid electricity supply services or electricity metering is not stated or implied under section 27(1)(1) of the NIMC Act 2007 or regulation 1 of the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number Regulations, 2017.
Under s. 27 (1) (h) NIMC Act 2007, NIN is required as a condition for all consumer credit transactions but not every electricity consumer or electricity supply service is creditor or credit transaction.
Prep-paid electricity supply services are not credit transactions. Pre-paid electricity consumers – who are burdened with a breach of supply of electricity – are excluded from sharing their NIN with a Disco.
Regulation 1 of the Mandatory Use of the National Identification Number Regulations, 2017 applies to tenancy and not pre-paid electricity supply consumers. Tenancies are between the landlord or lessor and tenant or lessee and not with third parties such as a Disco.
National Identity Numbers are sensitive personal data protected under the Nigerian Data Protection Act 2023. Electricity consumers’ disclosure of NIN to Ikeja Electric or any Disco is not voluntary and is a clear exploitation of consumers who want to access prepaid essential services from the Discos.
It is arguable if NIN would reduce electricity theft, help Discos identify customers, and consumers monitor consumption – which are the benefits Chantelle Abdul highlighted on Channels Television.
Data breaches and glitches are common in Nigeria’s digital or technology services such as banks, fintech, telecoms, mobile phones, payments, and Discos will not be an exception.
Consumers in Nigeria suffer losses arising from glitches and unauthorized access to personal data. Ikeja Electric wants to add to consumers’ burden.
Banks suffer glitches despite the CBN’s (Central Bank of Nigeria) regulatory regimes and prudential guidelines. NERC (Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission) lacks the CBN’s regulatory agility which has not protected Nigerian financial consumers.
The culture of lawful civic protest is dying in Nigeria. It becomes difficult for consumers to protect themselves.
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, its State counterparts, and above all the Nigeria Data Protection Commission must call IKEDC and other Discos to order. There is no legal justification for Discos to require NIN as a condition for pre-paid electricity services.
IKEDC must withdraw its call for pre-paid consumers to link NIN to electricity meters. We know that Nigerian Courts would uphold the pre-paid electricity consumers’ privacy and restrain Discos from exploiting consumers.