The House of Representatives Committee on Power has asked the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission to suspend the planned increase in electricity tariff.
The committee Chairman, Aliyu Magaji, gave the directive during a meeting with the Minister of Power and the NERC on the rationale behind the increase when the house had already passed a bill which criminalises estimated billing.
NERC had earlier announced that the increase would take effect from the 1st of April.
Meanwhile, the House committee also condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to transfer the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company Limited from the Ministry of Power to the Ministry of Finance.
“The PDP rejects, in its entirety, the over 200 percent increase in electricity tariff announced by the APC-led administration, describing it as draconian and completely against the interest and wellbeing of Nigerians.
“The party charges the Federal Government to immediately rescind the obnoxious and provocative policy and consult further with Nigerians before any such tariff hike,” PDP statement on its official handle read in part.
The PDP also described the increase in electricity tariff as a furtherance of the fleecing of Nigerians, ‘who are already overburdened and groaning under the weight of high costs, economic repression and heavy taxes.’
The party said further that, “It is lamentable that Nigerians, who are already suffering the devastating negative impact of the recent increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5 percent to 7.5 by the APC administration, are now being further suppressed with increased electricity tariff.
“Our party holds that the increase in electricity tariff, under the prevailing harsh economic conditions, is injurious to the wellbeing of Nigerians as it will further stress the productive sector and lead to an upsurge in the cost of regular and essential goods and… services, including food, medicine, housing, education, and other critical needs.”
The Federal Government, through the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) on Saturday, approved the immediate review of electricity tariffs across the country.
NERC announced this in a series of documents obtained by Channels Television.
Electricity distribution companies in Nigeria have called on the federal government to intervene in the power sector in order to avert an increase of over 200% in electricity tariff.
According to the operators, the intervention which is needed to address over 800 billion Naira revenue shortfall can come like subsidies to consumers or provision of special access to foreign exchange for the operating companies.
The average energy rate across the country is 22 Naira 8 kobo per kilowatt, but distributors say this may increase to between 70 Naira and 105 Naira per kilowatt if the revenue shortfall persists.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, Azu Obiaya, reportedly said the debts owed to power distribution companies by private electricity consumers, businesses and government authorities have climbed to about N568 billion.
He added that those debts are affecting the operations of the distribution companies and many are no longer able meet targets and service consumers.
Reports say a proposal for the increment of electricity tariff has been sent to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission.
An electricity tariff approved by the NERC took effect in February, 2016.
The commission also removed fixed electricity charges ordering that Discos should only bill consumers for what they consume.
NERC said “although, the new tariff regimes comes with an increase in energy charges, all electricity consumers (residential as well as commercial) will no longer pay fixed charges, so their total bills will depend on the electricity they actually consume and may be reduced when they conserve electricity.”
The Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos has fixed May 31 to rule on the preliminary objections filed by the Eko Electricity Distribution Company, The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission and the Attorney General of the Federation.
They are all listed as defendants in a suit filed by some aggrieved residents of Itire, Ijesa and Ikate communities in Surulere area of Lagos State.
The resident staged a peaceful protest in court on Monday to condemn the high electricity tariffs which they say does not match supply.
Justice Saliu Saidu has listened to the objections of the defendants who have challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit.
Counsel to the plaintiffs, however, said that the Federal Government needs to review the privatization process.
A Federal High Court in Lagos has re-affirmed the existing order restraining the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff.
While delivering a ruling on Monday on the objections of the NERC to a contempt charge against them, Justice Mohammed Idris asked the NERC to abide by the court order pending the hearing and final determination of a suit filed by a lawyer and rights activist, Toluwani Adebiyi, over the issue.
The plaintiff, Mr Adebiyi had sought to commit the NERC Chairman and the CEOs of the Distribution Companies (Discos) to prison for announcing the implementation of the new electricity tariff despite a subsisting court order barring same.
In his ruling, Justice Idris said: “Let me warn that when the disciplinary jurisdiction of this court is properly invoked, anyone who is found to have ignored the order of the court will be dealt with severely. The order of this court that parties in this suit should maintain the status quo remains valid and binding until it is set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction”.
“The issue of disobedience to court’s order is one that affects the integrity of the court. There is a need for the court to assert its authority and deal with any issue that is capable of bringing it to disrepute. Those who intend to take the judicial system for a ride should think twice and those who have done so should retrace their steps, the long arm of the law will catch up with them no matter how long it takes,” he further stressed.
Justice Idris had earlier in his ruling set aside the Form 49 and the motion for committal to prison filed against the defendants by the plaintiff.
The judge held that the issuance of form 49 on the defendants by the plaintiff without prior and proper service of form 48 was premature.
“In the circumstance, I hold that the defendant’s objection has merit. The court has set aside the contempt application due to fundamental and procedural irregularities,” the judge said.
The court has since adjourned till March 15 for hearing of all pending applications.
Adebiyi’s Substantive Suit
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, adding that the needful should include and not limited to a multiple long-term financing approach, sourced 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.
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, while the remaining 23 hours and 30 minutes were always without light and in total darkness.
“Nigeria 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.
The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has warned the Federal Government and the Distribution Companies (DISCOs) not to disobey subsisting court orders on electricity tariff.
The court also warned the government not to act in a way that showed disdain for the court in a constitutional democracy.
Presiding Justice, Mohammed Idris, gave the warning while ruling in a suit filed by a lawyer and rights activist, Toluwani Adebiyi, over the recent hike in electricity tariff on Monday.
Justice Idris fixed Friday, February 19 to hear an application by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) seeking a stay of proceedings in the suit.
The judge fixed the date after listening to the arguments of lawyers representing parties in the matter over the order in which pending applications should be taken by the court.
Mr Adebiyi filed a suit seeking a perpetual injunction restraining NERC from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff without significant improvement in power supply for at least 18 hours a day in May 2015.
He also wants an order restraining NERC from foisting compulsory service charges on pre-paid meters until “the meters were designed to read charges per second of consumption and not a flat rate of service not rendered or power not used.”
Multiple Long-term Financing Approach
Mr Adebiyi 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.
He further asked for an order of court mandating the NERC to do the needful and generate more power to meet the electricity use of Nigerians, emphasising that the needful should include and not limited to a multiple long-term financing approach, sourced from the banks, capital market, insurance and other sectors of finance to power the sector.
The lawyer also asked 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 which must be devoid of the arbitrary service charge, but only chargeable on power consumed.
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 lights 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 of electricity supply, while the remaining 23 hours and 30 minutes were always without light and in total darkness.
“Nigeria’s poor masses are paying an estimated and indiscriminate residential bill 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 had collapsed, industries had 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.
Poor Power Supply
He stressed that the proposed increase in electricity tariff came 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.
Justice Idris had made an order directing parties to maintain status quo and for NERC to suspend all actions relating to any increment in electricity tariff pending the hearing and final determination of the suit.
But while the suit was pending, NERC in conjunction with the Electricity Distribution Companies commenced the implementation of the new electricity tariff on February 1.
Protests by labour unions had since trailed the new power tariff.
At the proceedings, the plaintiff drew the court’s attention to an application seeking to commit the NERC’s Chairman and the CEOs of the Distribution Companies (Discos) to prison for allegedly flouting the order.
But NERC’s lawyer, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), said he had filed an appeal against the order by Justice Idris.
He also said he had a pending application for a stay of the proceedings pending the determination of the appeal.
Mr Idigbe mentioned that the plaintiff had not effected service of the contempt proceedings on the alleged contemnors.
The two lawyers were divided on which application should be heard first.
Mr Adebiyi said the contempt charge should be heard first since NERC had undermined the court’s authority, but Mr Idigbe said the application for stay of proceedings should take precedence since an appeal had been lodged.
In a short ruling on the issue, Justice Idris, held that it was in the interest of justice to first hear the defendant’s application for a stay of proceedings pending the determination of their appeal against the court’s order.
The plaintiff then asked for a short adjournment to enable him file his response to the application.
Justice Idris subsequently adjourned till Friday for the hearing of the application for a stay of proceedings.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has advised the Minister of Power, Mr Babatunde Fashola, to “ensure that regulatory authorities are not allowed to get away with 45% increase in electricity tariffs by promoting compliance with the November 2013 ruling on the matter by two UN special rapporteurs”.
In a statement on Tuesday, signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said, “Nigeria is an important member of the UN and have voluntarily accepted its charter and treaties. Therefore, any effort to increase electricity tarrifs should be guided by the recommendations by the UN and dialogue with organised labour and other stakeholders.”
The organisation noted that “The United Nations published the Joint Letter of Concern sent to the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan in which they expressed concerns that “access to electricity (and regularity of supply) is a significant problem in Nigeria,” and raised eight questions for the government to answer within 60 days.”
The letter with reference No NGA 5/2013 and dated 26 November 2013, and signed by two special rapporteurs expressed concerns that “at the end of 2012, Nigeria with a population of about 160 million people only generated about 4,000 megawatts of electricity, which is ten times less than some other countries in the region with less population.”
The UN special rapporteurs argued that “all beneficiaries of the right to adequate housing should have sustainable access to energy for cooking, heating and lighting. The failure of States to provide basic services such as electricity is a violation of the right to health.”
The rapporteurs’ Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Ms. Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona and Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Ms. Raquel Rolnik, sent the letter following a petition lodged in 2015 by a coalition of human rights activists, labour, journalists and lawyers led by SERAP. The petition alleged that increase in electricity tarrifs would “have detrimental impact on the human rights of those living in poverty in the country.”
Consequently, the special rapporteurs wanted answers to the following questions:
1. Are the facts alleged by SERAP and others accurate? 2. What kind of impact assessments were conducted to gauge the potential impact of the electricity tariff increases on the human rights of people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria? If so, provide details 3. Did public consultations take place, including with potentially affected persons and especially people living in extreme poverty? If yes, please give details of the dates, participants and outcomes of the consultations. 4. Was accessible and culturally adequate information about the measure actively disseminated through all available channels prior to consultation? 5. What measures have been put in place to ensure that the human rights of people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria will not be undermined by the increase in electricity tariffs? In particular, what measures are in place to ensure that they can enjoy their right to adequate housing, including sustainable access to energy for cooking, heating and lighting, which is a component of this right? 6. Are there any accessible independent review or complaint mechanisms in place, such as administrative mechanisms through the NERC Power Consumer Assemblies (PCA), available for individuals to challenge the classification of customers and/or the corresponding tariffs? If such mechanisms exist, please give details. 7. What mechanisms exist to ensure transparency, accountability and regular monitoring over the use of tariff revenue within the government? What mechanisms are available to address allegations of corruption, or other complaints? What mechanisms are in place to monitor and regulate service provision by private actors, as required under the State’s duty to protect? 8. Please describe any existing policies or measures aimed to promote affordability of electricity provision for people living in extreme poverty. Are any subsidies already available and implemented? What is being done to mitigate the hardship imposed by increased tariffs, especially for persons living in poverty?
The special rapporteurs also wanted answers to the alleged “mismanagement throughout the privatization process, and around 3.5 billion USD that has been mismanaged annually over the last ten years, and a total of 16 billion USD released to improve electricity supply in the country that has not been properly accounted for. The Business Units which have taken over from the PHCN participate in large-scale corruption such as graft from exorbitant consumer bills, rejection of payment to independent third parties such as banks to keep management of funds secret, unprecedented disconnection of consumers’ power lines, general bribery and fraud amongst staff, adding up to over NGN 1 billion extra charged to consumers annually.”
According to them, “The increases in electricity tariffs, problems with measuring electricity usage, lack of improvement in the quality of the service and lack of transparency in the use of funds, reportedly disproportionately impact on those with little disposable income, as well as exacerbate the scarcity of energy supply for those who already cannot afford electricity even if connected to the grid.”
They pointed to Nigeria’s international obligations “under various international human rights instruments and in particular: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, acceded to by Nigeria in 1993), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, ratified by Nigeria in 1993), the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, ratified by Nigeria in 1985) and the African (Banjul) Charter on Human Rights and People’s rights (ratified by Nigeria in 1983).”
“The human rights framework does not dictate a particular form of service delivery and leaves it to States to determine the best ways to implement their human rights obligations. However, the State cannot exempt itself from its human rights obligations when involving non-State actors in service provision. On the contrary, when non-State actors are involved in service provision, there is a shift to an even stronger focus on the obligation of the State to protect,” the special rapporteurs added.
They further argued that, “As part of its obligation to protect, the State must safeguard all persons within their jurisdiction from infringements of their rights by third parties. Involving non-State actors in service provision requires, inter alia, clearly defining the scope of functions delegated to them, overseeing their activities through setting regulatory standards, and monitoring compliance.”
“Given the fact that in Nigeria, electricity provision has been outsourced to the private sector, the obligation remains for the Nigerian government to ensure that private sector actions do not result in violations of the right to an adequate standard of living,” the special rapporteurs argued.
Other signatories to the petition sent to the special rapporteurs in September 2013 are: the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE); Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ); Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center (WARDC); Women Empowerment and Legal Aid Initiative (WELA); Partnership for Justice (PJ); Education Rights Campaign (ERC); Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Lagos State Council; Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Lagos; Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Ikeja branch; National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), and Joint Action Front (JAF).
There was a wave of protest across Nigeria on Monday, as the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), civil society allies and electricity consumers demonstrated against the 45% increase in electricity tariff.
A wave of protest is underway across Nigeria, as the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), civil society allies and electricity consumers demonstrate against the 45 per cent increase in electricity tariff.
Addressing the unions and allies before the match began, the leader of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Aliyu Wabba, said the increase was outrageous and should not stand.
“From 14 Naira per unit to 28 or 26 Naira. This increase is outrageous. When it subsists this time around, be sure that it will continue and the exploiters will continue to exploit us.
“This is the message that we are taking to all these agencies.
“We are also going to the National Assembly because they are the true representatives of the people. They feel our pulse and they represent our various constituencies and therefore they must stop all these by making laws that will actually protect the people.
“Law should be made to protect the people and not encourage exploitation,” he told the gathering.
The NLC leader also pointed out that the increase was the fifth in a roll since 2012.
Mr Wabba believes the increase will have a multiplier effect on the Nigerian economy, with manufacturing companies having to pay more for power.
“The increase is going to affect manufacturers, Medium and Small Scale Enterprises and even consumers. Every consumer must be provided with meter because people should be able to pay for what they consume and not to pay for darkness,” he stressed.
The labour leader also accused electricity companies of deliberately refusing to provide meters for consumers and using estimated billing system to exploit Nigerians.
“This should stop,” he insisted.
The increase in electricity tariff was announced by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and it kicked off on February 1.
Organised labour said that the protest had become necessary after all efforts to make NERC shelve the idea of electricity tariff increase failed.
According to labour, the due process in the extant laws for such increment was not followed in consonance with section 76 of the Power Sector Reform Act, 2005.
Organised labour also believes that there has been no significant improvement in service delivery.
“The fact is that most consumers are not metered in accordance with the signed privatisation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of November 1, 2013, which stipulates that within 18 months gestation period, all consumers must be metered,” the organised labour said.
A statement by the labour unions said that the Abuja rally would start at Labour House, Central Business District at 8:00a.m local time, before moving to the NERC head office at Adamawa Plaza, Plot 1099, First Avenue, Off Shehu Shagari Way, Central Business District.
Members of organised labour in most states in Nigeria have also joined the protest, insisting that an earlier agreement should be upheld.
As early as 8:00:am, members of the NLC and the TUC in the state gathered at the office of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) along Royce Rad in Owerri, the capital of Imo state, to protest the electricity tariff hike.
While barricading the main entrance to the EEDC office, the State Chairman of the NLC, Comrade Austin Chilakpu, said that less than 20 per cent of families in the state had pre-paid meter.
In Osun State, although the turnout was not so impressive, the labour unions, joined by students union in the state at about 10:00am besieged the business hub of the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company in Osogbo, the state’s capital.
The State Chairmen of NLC and TUC Comrade Jacob Adekomi and Akinyemi Olatunji, while addressing the protesters warned that, failure to see reasons with the Nigerian masses, would result in continuous picketing.
They also advised the distribution company to honour the agreement of providing metres to every Nigerian, in order for them to pay for what they use.
In Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, the NLC locked out workers of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company in line with the directive of the national body.
The State Chairman of the NLC Comrade John Ushie, said despite the epileptic power supply in the state and country, the DISCOs had continued to bill the consumers on estimation, forcing them to pay for what they could not account for.
In Kogi State the NLC and the TUC were at the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company in Lokoja to protest against the high electricity tariff.
They held placards with different inscriptions and chanted their solidarity song.
At the head office of the DISCO in Lokoja, the Chairman of the NLC in Kogi State, Comrade Onuh Edoka, urged the Federal Government to go by the previous agreement of metering all houses before increment.
An Electricity Distribution Company (DISCO) in Lagos State has stressed that except consumers pay for energy they consume, it would be extremely difficult to sustain supply of electricity.
Addressing reporters on Monday, the Chief Executive of Egbin Power Plant, Kolawole Adeshina, said it would be difficult for distribution companies to survive if consumers without prepaid meter were asked not to pay their bills.
Checkmate Energy Theft
Mr Adeshina assured consumers of a massive roll out of repaid meter numbering over 300,000, which he said would help the distribution companies (DISCO) checkmate energy theft.
“We have signed a metering contract of 106 million dollars. For a company that has not been paid and you are signing a metering contract, invariably, you expect to be paid.
“You are now saying that if those metres are not in place, which can’t be in place in one day, that payments will not be made. It cannot work and our system will fail,” the Egbin Power Plant Chief Executive stated.
He, however, told reporters that he was against inefficient and estimated billing of electricity consumers, a development that had led to some consumer’s refusal to pay their bills.
“I do not want and I don’t subscribe to people inefficiently being billed.
“No! You should not be billed beyond the power you have consumed because it is equally not right,” he stressed.