The Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOS) across Nigeria are facing contempt proceedings over the implementation of the new electricity tariff despite a subsisting court order halting same.
A lawyer and rights activist, Toluwani Yemi Adebiyi, slammed the contempt proceedings on the Chairman of the NERC and the Chief Executive Officers of the DISCOS.
Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Lagos had on May 28, 2015, directed NERC to suspend all actions relating to any increment in electricity tariff pending the hearing and final determination of a suit filed by the lawyer on the issue.
‘Do The Needful’
However, despite the subsisting court order, NERC in conjunction with the Electricity Distribution Companies commenced the implementation of the new electricity tariff on February 1, 2016.
Already, copies of Form 48 which is a notice of consequence of disobedience of court order had been served on the alleged contemnors.
The application is expected to be heard on Thursday by Justice Idris.
Mr Adebiyi, in the substantive suit, is seeking an order restraining NERC from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff without a meaningful and significant improvement in power supply at least for 18 hours in a day in most communities in Nigeria.
He also wants an order restraining NERC from foisting compulsory
service charge on pre-paid meters not until “the meters are designed to read charges per second of consumption and not a flat rate of service not rendered or power not used.”
He also wants the service charge on pre-paid meters not to be enforced until there is visible efficient and reliable power supply like those of foreign countries where the idea of service charge was borrowed.
Adebiyi is further asking for an order of court mandating the NERC to do the needful and generate more power to meet the electricity use of Nigerians.
He also requested that the court should make NERC consider sourcing long-term finance from the banks, capital market, insurance and other sectors of finance to power the sector.
Finally, the lawyer is asking the court to mandate the NERC to make available to all Nigerians within a reasonable time of maximum of two years, prepaid meters as a way to stop the throat-cutting indiscriminate estimated bill and which must be devoid of the arbitrary service charge, but only chargeable on power consumed.
“Situation Is Self-evident”
In an affidavit in support of the suit personally deposed to by the
applicant, the lawyer lamented that despite the motto and mission of
NERC which were expressly stated as “keeping the light on and to meet the needs of Nigeria for safe, adequate, reliable and affordable electricity,” most communities in Nigeria do not get more than 30 minutes if electricity supply per day.
“Nigeria’s poor masses are paying an estimated and indiscriminate
residential bills ranging from 5, 000 Naira to 18, 000 Naira, spending an
average of 15, 000 Naira to 20, 000 Naira for fuel to maintain generating set.
“Businesses have collapsed, industries have closed down, and residents cannot sleep comfortably at night due to inefficiency of our power industry.
“Companies and commercial Houses are groaning under throat-cutting power bill which they are paying for, yet not getting the benefit for such payment,” Adebiyi stated.
He stressed that the proposed increase in electricity tariff was coming amidst the tangled web of poor power supply with no reasonable proof of improvement.
“The situation is self-evident, it readily speaks for itself because everyone is suffering from poor power outrage.
“Bringing further increase amidst this tangled web of hardship and without any improvement in power supply, will be highly unjustifiable and will be an economic burden on Nigeria populace.
It is totally absurd and not for the good of the people, and therefore must be
stopped,” Adebiyi submitted.