The obsession of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, to increase electricity tariff amounts to putting the cart before the horse. Thankfully, a Federal High Court in Lagos presided over by Justice Mohammed Idris, last week restrained NERC from going ahead with its insensitive and wicked plan.
NERC in collaboration with Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOS), had planned to review upward the tariff paid by electricity consumers with effect from 1 June this year. If not for the ex-parte application filed by a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Toluwani Adebiyi restraining NERC, which the court graciously granted last week, the agency would have gone ahead to implement its new tariff policy of 100 per cent increase.
At a time Nigerians have experienced the worst form of service delivery by electricity distribution companies and corresponding payment of high tariff for electricity not consumed, it is insensitive on the part of NERC to contemplate increasing tariff at the behest of electricity distribution companies. Nigerians who have been subjected to this exploitation for decades should be spared the harrowing experience of paying higher tariff until there is regular or uninterrupted supply of electricity. It is inhuman to do otherwise.
Before NERC could contemplate increasing tariff, the commission should also compel DISCOS to install pre-paid meters and replace the analogue meters through which DISCOS are currently fleecing consumers through estimated bills. It should also stop the fraudulent service charge slammed on the few pre-paid meter users in the country. DISCOS should wait until they improve their services before they introduce that concept they borrowed from countries where electricity supply is regular.
It is disheartening that DISCOS have contributed greatly to the collapse of the nation’s economy and mass unemployment because of poor electricity supply and high tariff. Many manufacturing plants in Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Benin and other big cities have shut down and thrown thousands of people out of jobs. Recently, manufacturers who could not cope with the high operational cost of running plants with diesel met with NERC in Abuja where they threatened to shut down their operations because of crazy bills slammed on them by DISCOS even though they run their operations largely on electricity generating plants with the attendant high cost of fuelling the plants.
We insist that NERC must prevail on DISCOS to shelve its planned tariff increase because it is anti-people, insensitive, wicked and would further pauperise hapless Nigerians who are groaning under the yoke of poverty. DISCOS cannot transfer the burden of their inefficiency on Nigerians almost impaled by poor leadership over the years.
NERC prefers the easy way out rather than investigate what happened to the $3.5 billion government has been spending annually on power in the last 10 years with nothing to show for it. It is not surprising that 120 million Nigerians do not have access to electricity given the pervasive corruption in the sector. NERC should compel DISCOS to stabilise electricity supply and provide pre-paid meters to every household before thinking of increasing tariff. Regular electricity supply is at the core of a nation’s development and prosperity. This should be the utmost concern of NERC.
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