House Directs NERC to Suspend Proposed Increase of Electricity Tariff
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The House of Representatives has called on the federal government to direct the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to rescind the decision of further increase of electricity tariff proposed for June 202l in view of the hard times Nigerians are currently going through.
The resolution of the House was sequel to the adoption of a motion moved at the plenary on Thursday by Hon. Hon. Aniekan Umanah.
Moving the motion, Umanah said the Electric Power Sector Act of 2005 established NERC with a mandate to license distribution companies (DISCOs), determine operating codes and standards, establish customer rights and obligations and set cost-reflective industry tariff.
The lawmaker added that the Act prescribed its funding from 15% of electricity charges paid by customers to distribution companies.
Umanah noted that NERC, working with distribution companies, has increased electricity tariffs five times since 2015, the latest being on 1 January 2021.
He said despite the increases, Nigerians have not enjoyed significant improvement in power generation, instead they daily grapple with epileptic services from the Discos and unilateral exploitation in the name of estimated billing arising from non-metering of over 50% of consumers.
The lawmaker observed that poor services by the Discos have impacted negatively on the socio-economic growth of the country as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Report of 2020 on Nigeria indicated that the manufacturing sector lost over $200 billion to inadequate power supply, while a whopping $21 billion was said to have been spent by Nigerians on generating sets within the period under review.
Umanah stressed that the Nigerian masses have gone through so much hardship in recent times arising from acts of terrorism, banditry, kidnappings, farmers and herdsmen’s crisis with its toll on agricultural activities, displacement from ancestral homes, loss of loved ones, starvation arising from inability to return to daily occupation and loss of personal properties running into several million of naira.
He expressed concern that at a time governments all over the world are adopting measures to cushion the devastating effects of the dreaded COVID–19 pandemic on their citizens by providing a wide range of palliatives to losses of loved ones, jobs, businesses and general distortion in the social life, NERC is tinkering with the idea of a further increase in electricity tariff after that of January 1, 2021, in a country where two-thirds of the 200 million population is grappling with the crippling effects of the pandemic.
Umanah argued that the current economic recession made worse by hyperinflation has resulted in skyrocketing prices of foodstuffs, while the increase in prices of petroleum products has also triggered the further increase in transport costs and rents with unemployment rates at a frightening 33.3%, while the spending power of an average Nigerian has drastically reduced, any further hike in electricity tariff at this time would amount to overkill, lack of empathy and height of insensitivity.
The House, therefore, urged the “federal government to direct the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission to rescind the decision to further increase electricity tariff proposed for June 202l in view of the hard times Nigerian masses are currently going through”.
The House also urged its Committees on Power, Poverty Alleviation and Labour, Employment and Productivity to investigate the status of operation of prepaid meters as a policy of the federal government.
Meanwhile, the House has ordered an investigation into the allegations that Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos) are in the habit of transferring outstanding debts of old customers to new users.
The decision of the House followed the adoption of a motion moved by Hon. Shoyinka Olatunji at the plenary on Thursday.
Moving the motion, he said the Discos, which are responsible for the collection of payments for services rendered to consumers allow unpaid bills to accumulate without following the lay down principles and guidelines by regulatory authorities towards unpaid bills and disconnection of non paying customers.
He said that if nothing is done to curb the act of transferring debts incurred by other consumers to new consumers, the latter would continue to bear the burden of paying for the electricity they did not consume.
The House, therefore, mandated its Committee on Power to engage the Discos and other relevant regulatory agencies to find a lasting solution and report back within four weeks.