The House of Representatives has held an investigative hearing into the suspension of the board of directors of Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) allegedly by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
Chairman of the House Committee on Power, Mr Dan Asuquo, presided over the session which took place on Wednesday at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.
He said the meeting was convened to tackle critical issues, including the operations and administrations of major stakeholders in the power sector.
The lawmaker emphasised the relationship between the sector and national development towards the prosperity of the nation.
He said, “If we are to grow as a people and deliver on our promises as a great nation, we just must fix the power sector.
“There is no other path to national growth and this is why we (the National Assembly) are passionate in playing our role as troubleshooters in the Nigerian electricity supply industry and to continually put off the fires here and there that threaten its growth and even its existence as a whole.”
Asuquo noted that the legislature would continue to intervene wherever issues that have adverse implications on the health and growth of the sector arise.
He highlighted the case of the suspension of “all executive and non-executive directors of IBEDC as one of such instances.
The committee chairman stressed that the Independent Power Producers (IPP) needs to consolidate the positions in the new post-reform market, saying a complicated market calls for an all-inclusive engagement from stakeholders.
He observed that it was on this note that the order of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) purportedly dissolving the board of the IBEDC came as a source of concern to the National Assembly and Nigerians at large.
The lawmaker added that this prompted the House of Representatives to direct its Committee on Power to wade into the crisis with the aim of ensuring that the free market was protected.
While welcoming the officials of NERC, IBEDC, and others present at the session, he criticised the situation where the Minister of Power, Mr Babatunde Fashola, and officials from the ministry were absent.
Speaker of the House, Mr Yakubu Dogara, also informed the gathering that the session was convened following a motion brought before that House in which there were allegations of an unlawful act against IBEDC by NERC.
Dogara, who was represented by the Chief Whip of the House, Alhassan Doguwa, noted that the electricity sector occupies a prime position in the nation’s economy and the well-being of its people.
He described the sector as the bedrock on which a sustainable economic development is built, saying it contributes immensely to the prosperity of a nation.
The Speaker recalled that the House had set up an ad-hoc committee in June to investigate an alleged breach of constitution by an electricity company in the Niger Delta region, while another was set up to curb excessive estimated electricity charges levied on consumers by electricity distribution companies.
He, however, said the decision of the NERC was not in line with the law and there were concerns that regulatory best practices might have been compromised or violated in the process.
Dogara also noted that such move was capable of scaring away genuine investors from the country, saying the essence of the investigation was to enable the lawmakers to arrive at the real fact of the matter.
But the hearing suffered a setback when the Chairman of NERC, Professor James Momoh, informed the matter that they were not at liberty to speak on the matter as it was already in court.
Professor Momoh said, “IBEDC had filed a suit in the Federal High Court, Abuja, and we were served this order on June 27, 2018. Based on the letter sent to IBEDC on June 19, 2018, parties have appeared in court and the case is still in court. We have been advised that this hearing will be considered to be against the court order.”
He noted that the court had fixed October 15 to hear the matter while all parties were asked to wait for the court to determine the next action.
The NERC Chairman, however, said they have submitted a detailed report which captures the position of the commission to the House Committee.
In his response, the Committee Chairman said the NERC was not only answerable to the Nigerian people but also to its parliament, stressing that the organisation came into existence by the act of parliament.
He then clarified that the session was not to interfere with the court process but to ensure that the laws made by the National Assembly were properly adhered to while the heads of various organisation act within the limit of the law.
Asuquo consequently directed that the session return into an executive session behind closed-door, saying the second part of the motion which brought about the hearing stated that they should investigate the stability of the market itself.