Sunday, September 25Inside Business Africa

Closing the Metering Gap – Engr. Kola Balogun, CEO, Momas Electricity Meters Manufacturing Company Limited

  1. Can We Meet You Sir?

My name is Engr. KOLA BALOGUN, I’m the Chairman, Chief Executive Officer of MOMAS’s group, generally, MOMAS comprises of Momas Nigeria Systems Ltd, Momas Electricity Meters Manufacturing Company Ltd, Momas Power Generation Ltd and Equipment and Protective Applications International Ltd. My background is purely electrical electronics engineering and I have gone through some other various courses to broaden my knowledge globally which is what brought about my remarkable achievements in the two most critical sectors of our National economy, Power and Defence sector.

Tell Us About Momas Electricity Meters Manufacturing Company Ltd, Its Offerings And Services?

MOMAS Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company Ltd was born out of the passion to develop a prepayment Capability for Nigeria. Prior to when we started the idea of prepayment in Nigeria, Electricity meters supply was imports based and then we were importing from South Africa. But as a passionate Nigerian who is committed to the development of my country and given the volume of metering needs in the country, I felt that we can use these to scale up our deficiency in terms of technology deficits and that’s what led to manufacturing of meter today.

We then invested heavily on machinery and acquisition of advance skills through training and retraining across the globe in terms of knowing how meter is made and some other electronic devices that cut across competitiveness because to bring technology down-home is like a war it requires a lot of commitment because there are prices you pay for development.

Also, we carried a lot of researches and developments to upscale our production facility to be at par with best known standards around the world and this is what brought MOMAS electricity meter manufacturing as a pioneer meter manufacturer in Nigeria today.

As One Of The Pioneer Manufacturers In This Sector, What Was Memmcol’s Milestone, And The Achievements So Far?

Yes, our milestone is to close the METERING gab taking advantage of the deficit and inadequacies of dovetailing technology to address peculiarity in Nigeria. Our voltage profile in Nigeria is peculiar, our demand in term of electricity and utilizations are peculiar, our natures of distribution of electricity are peculiar and that’s why it is very important to domesticate all form of technology down-home to address our peculiarities.

For instance, we have successfully carved a niche for ourselves in terms of our innovative inventions in the power sector which are tailored at addressing some of the challenges in the sector and are tailored to suit our peculiarities.

Below are the list:

  • Pioneered the development of vending/billing management applications and support services for the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (erstwhile National Electric Power Authority) and now the Power Distribution companies in Nigeria.
  • Invention and designing of the prepaid energy meter in Nigeria.
  • Invention and designing of the Dual tariff energy meter in Nigeria to address the energy supply peculiarity in the Country.
  • Pioneered the Designing and production of electricity Meter boxes of all kinds.
  • Establishment of the first metering school in Africa as a platform for training of youths on metering technology.
  • Invention of the Distribution Power Enhancement Panel (DPEP) for both 11kva and 33kva power sub-stations to address commercial and technical energy losses.

Because it’s a dynamic system, when you develop locally, it is easier for you to support and to amend at any point in time to suit whatever policy that you are changing or new innovation that you are working on, so these are the advantages that you get in domesticating technology, but in the process of that journey, it requires a lot of efforts.

Government need to compliment your efforts, individual private sectors that are using your product must equally be steady, fast, and support you to ensure that that growth is consistent.

Do You Import All The Raw Materials You Use In Production Of Meter Or You Produce Them?

The raw material is a general device that every meter manufacturer imports, even those who are importing from other foreign countries do import raw materials. Raw material production is another industry on its own which if we have a developmental plans to develop our raw material industry; it will create an industrial growth on its own.

So the government needs to look into that so that we will tell them the kind of raw materials that we’re using and that will open up another opportunity for another industrialization in another level, because it’s now becoming iTech because most of the raw material component that we use are all solid state devices, just like Silicon Valley and so on and so forth.

So it’s another industry on its own, but since we are the user, it is easier for us to tell them what we need for them to produce for us. The commercial volume must be good enough for anybody to invest into raw material industry. Just like the refinery that we’re building, it is part of the raw materials because they will produce some of the plastic component that we would require to produce the plastic part of the meters.

So these are things that the government needs to look into. It is a work in progress and it’s supposed to be progressive so that it can be adding value into the deficit on the employment industry that we have, because what is causing so much insecurity is unemployment and if we keep developing our local capability and capacity, it will be reducing a lot of unemployment deficit that we have. So these will eventually improve our GDP at the end of the day.

What distinguishes Memmcol’s products from others?

Very valid question, because Memmcol designs, Memmcol can meet your peculiar needs. We can customize meters for you. It is not like a readymade meter that somebody brings that when it has a problem they can’t support it. But we can support because it’s our design and we know what is made up of that product.

So it’s easier for us to give you a value addition and you can come back to us and tell us that this meter you don’t want it to behave this way, you want it to behave that way and we can do it because we have what it takes. We have intellectual property, we have the design techniques, and we can do anything you want with it and we can change even the entire profiling of what you need to always suit or advise you appropriately of the best way to go about it.

We have a lot of pedigree to that. We are the first Nigerian to even design a dual tariff meter that addresses some peculiarity we were the first Nigerian to introduce a power enhancement to improve the feasibility of our substations, because even if you have a meter in your house today but because of decayed infrastructure on the substation, you can’t have 24, 7 power. So we are the first to actually put in an enhancement panel to ensure that you don’t use fida panel again, you are now using an intelligent control breaker to ensure that substation can be controlled remotely and can be disconnected, you can know the value of your energy dispatched on the streets and so on and so forth. You can do a lot of energy accountability and you can accept another type of power source. These are domestication; these are peculiarities that we are addressing, our own problem in our own way.

Is It Possible To Have A Functional Metering System In Nigeria?

Quite right, yes.

How Do We Curb With The Incessant Faulty Meters, And Delays In Distribution Of Meters That Have Been Paid For By Customers?

Okay, in most cases, because metering industry is not a licensed industry, it is difficult for us to produce meter and put it on a shelve. You realize that most industry where there is sustainability, they are licensed. So it is when you are licensed for instance let’s say give or take anywhere you see MOMAS meter anywhere, buy it and give it to the disco we have been licensed, so it’s easier for me to produce ahead.

Now in a situation whereby I am not under the obligation of producing and keeping on shelves, it means until when you request that I will put the machinery to produce for you. So it can delay some times and at times we have a minimum components stocking or raw material stocking, because if I stock and all of a sudden you change your specification and I have already stocked for the whole specification, it will be difficult for me to change.

So this are things that delay and it’s just a transcend delay just a minimal delay time within a Month, and if you pay for a meter, definitely you will get it definitely, but at any point in time, they are always meters, but might not be a meter that meets your actually requirement. And if you do not need the one that meet your requirements, you give us a little time to be able to possibly redesign or fine tune what we have designed to meet your requirement. Then we’ll give it to you.

What Are The Challenges In Power Sector That Is Affecting Effective Metering And Billing System In Nigeria?

Yes for now, the federal government has intervened on the metering sub-sector; it seems to be having a very good promissory note from the federal government because they have injected some fund into it. All we have to do is to hold on to it, to ensure that it’s continuous and we don’t deviate from that commitment to address the entire metering gap. It is moving fast and it’s growing.

What I think is a major deficit is now is skill acquisition; manpower requirement, which has compelled us to do train, so now we’re doing more trainings, we are going to roll out another set of training very soon that will address some of the manpower requirements because we need to breach the installation gap because the speed of installation is a major challenge and it has to do with personnel, so we need to train more, more for skill acquisition.

Why Has The Prepaid Meters Implementation Still Not Fully Executed?

Pre-payment meter to a consumer is a choice, and it’s also a choice from the disco. If the disco wants you as a consumer to use prepaid, possibly because they felt they have not been collecting and there is a lot of loss of revenue within that area and they want to reduce that loss of revenue. The only way they can reduce that loss of revenue is to introduce pre-pay meter so that you people can pay for what you are using. And it’s also more convenient for consumers to pay for what they are using, what I’m using is what I will pay for.

However, if you don’t use prepaid, it means you are either on estimated billing or you are in the credits billing and if you’re on credit billing, it means they will come to your premises and read your energy, and they will now process your bill and send to you. At times, it is very contentious because you will contest the bill they give you that maybe they have over read your meter, But if it is a prepaid, you know what you are using, you can see it, you can count it on your meter and these are form of check utilization so it gives you a more comfort zone to know that yes, you have not been cheated. If you buy credit, you know when it will be used and you can go back to your home and reduce your appliances and put off what you are not using these are consumer low demand management that everybody needs to acquaint with and you’ll be able to narrow your wastage with prepaid.

How Can We Assure Accurate Measurement And Correct Billing System?

Yes I think all those things have to do with education, knowledge gap about metering. What do I pay for using 60 watt lamp? What do I pay by using 100 watt of iron to press my clothes? If I press my clothes for five minutes, how much will I pay, these are knowledge gap that consumers need to know, if they know, wastage gap will be reduced.

I can tell you some people just put on their lights and go to office. And that’s why we are introducing smart, the smart prepaid, the smart control that we’re introducing into the system now is to allow you to use your mobile app to see the energy you are using in the house and advise you appropriately when you do need to put on the devices. You can calculate your load consumption and advise you that with all your devices in the house, this is the likely amount you are going to spend at the end of the month. That’s the smartness that we’re introducing into the system now.

Do You Think Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (Nerc) Is Doing Justice To This Sector?

Yes, the regulatory bodies are doing a lot, you know, just that they keep changing the commissioners, these people are relatively new, three years old now so they are learning the process. They are introducing new innovations, they are the ones that persuaded the federal government to intervene, that is why you see central bank putting money into metering and it’s going on well, they are talking, they are doing the talking and they’re working the talk.

What Are Your Views On Local Content Policy And Its Impacts To Indigenous Firms In Nigeria?

Yes local content is the way to go. If you don’t apply local content, no nation can grow. Local content will bridge knowledge gap, local content will increase employment rate, Local content will increase technology transfer, local contents, will bring development and local content will be able to create checks and balances in one way or the other.

Such that, when you see a foreigner working, you equally see local people working, so we’ll be able to check ourselves for excesses. They are so many benefits in local content and it is the right thing to do. We are fully local content, we are a hundred percent local content compliance because 99% of people who are here are Nigerians and the whole design techniques and everything are Nigerians.

However, in understanding local content, there are two premises in which I want to explain the local content; there is local content in term of skill, knowing how test is being done is a major local content. Now, in a situation whereby the dominance of a product or a facility in any country is being dominated by foreigners, the local content is application of the domestic people to be involved in the operation.

However, the other local content is the raw material, are we processing the main raw material from the ground to a product that is usable by the industry, rather than exporting our own material outside and processing and bringing it back to us. This is a generic approach to development, which the government needs to strengthen.

The content has to be reviewed all the time to see how we will apply, we would extract the raw material from the ground, and process it, and use it for the industry. And at the same time, the knowledge gap, how do we bridge the gap, all what we have learned, how do we put it into use to develop capability, to develop device and when we use it to develop a device do we consume it? Because one of the greatest challenges for any form of development is if you produce something and you are not consuming it, it becomes a challenge for further development. Because if you don’t use, you can’t criticize that what you have produced has this defect and you improve on it. It is the feedback you are getting from the utilization of such thing that will make you to improve upon it.

So we have no choice if we want to develop as a nation. We have no choice. We have to keep encouraging our local content, we have to keep spending money on research and development, the Government needs to put in synergy with public, private companies that are into research and development, support them with adequate funding and make sure they give them tasks and they give them guidelines and target and ensure that those products that will come out of there would be utilized.

Is Momas Organizing Any Programme To Educate People On Metering?

Yes part of our corporate social responsibility is to improve on man power deficit; we are developing youths on skill acquisition training youths on how to do meter installation, training youth on how to do meter auditing like when you have a controversy over your bill, you need to call somebody apart from the agency of the government that is available, you should be able to call somebody who has been trained and licensed to do certain level of clarification for you.

So, we would educate you about how your house should comply with some certain standards so that you won’t have leakage current, you don’t have this so that you will not be paying for electricity you didn’t use. There are people who are paying for electricity they didn’t use because of the reticulation in their house.

Their house is not well reticulated, It’s not well grounded, that’s why when you touch some places it will be shocking, it is because they is a leakage, and that you are paying for. Yes you don’t know, and you don’t have the light. So this is the education that we need to give, we train people on how to design meter and design embedded electronic device, design enclosure and so on and so forth.

So they are a lot of training we are giving to youths, but the most important thing is, when you train them, the industry is supposed to absorb them and give them tasks that they can make use of the skills they have acquired, and that’s what we’re doing and the synergy that all our students should be able to get a job immediately with the disco and the meter installation that, and we have a lot of deficit in terms of gap. So in the next 2, 3, 4, 5 years, we will still be running this scheme.

Who Are The People Qualified For Your Training?

We encourage minimum of school cert and there are training, you know, that various type of level of training. We have level one, level two level three. So the level one is for basic people with school cert, especially when you have a science background, it makes life easier for us. But even if you don’t have a science background we would acquaint you sufficiently to be able to understand the fundamentals of practical installation So you’ll be able to do something in the power sector, then the level two is for graduate and advanced people or other form of qualification you might have. So we have variety it cuts across any form of discipline and we can train people to acquire sufficient skills.

Momas’ Csr During Covid-19?

Despite the fact that all our staff were adequately informed about compliance to COVID 19 protocol, we equally extended our corporate social responsibility to community by kitting some of them, by fumigating the entire environment, sanitizing them and giving them some little leverage and every other thing during the lockdown we locked this place down. We comply with federal government directives; we incurred a lot of losses. Some of the raw materials we brought in were all caked, they all spoilt see there where I kept some of the samples that got bad during the lockdown because we need to comply with the federal government directive and we paid all their salary at that point in time, we didn’t owe them at that point in time, so those were part of our support to ensure that life goes on, despite all the challenges of the pandemic.

Apart From Metering, What Else Does Momas Produce?

The knowledge we acquired, this skills we have cuts across all embedded design. We can actually develop any form of electronics, but we are in partnership with some development agencies to develop certain devices that will be useful for their own capability and for the country. So, our knowledge is very vast and we are using it for the purpose of development.

Final Words

Every person supporting Momas from Nigeria and other parts of the world are actually supporting human development, they are developing youths, they are developing Nigeria and they are making us feel that we are not just a subordinate. They are developing capability and that will transform because, we are developing an institution that will outlive us that started it. And I urge them to continue that support because it’s not going to come on an easy note,  they are challenges that we have noticed, but we’re trying to address all these challenges to meet all our clients requirements, we urge you to be patient with us to enable us address all the technology deficits for a better tomorrow. Thank you

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