In response to public outcry, the House of Representatives on Thursday called on Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to suspend the proposed increase in electricity tariff proposed for June, 202l.
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by Hon. Aniekan Umanah, who frowned at the economic burden imposed on the average citizens as a result of high cost of living in the country. In his lead debate, Hon. Umanah expressed grave concern over the flagrant breach of the provisions of the Electric Power Sector Act of 2005 established the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission with a mandate to license Distribution Companies (DISCOs), determine operating codes and standards, establish customer rights and obligations and set cost-reflective industry tariff.
He also expressed displeasure over the impacts of the DISCOs poor service delivery which have impacted negatively on the socio-economic growth of the country vis-àvis International Monetary Fund (IMF) Report of 2020 on Nigeria which 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. He said: “The House also recalls that the Act prescribed its funding from 15% of electricity charges paid by customers to Distribution Companies.
“The House is aware that NERC, working with Distribution Companies, has increased electricity tariffs five times since 2015, the latest being on 1 January 2021.
“The House is also aware that despite those 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 House observes 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.
“The House further observes 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.
“The House is concerned 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 1 January, 2021, in a country where 2/3 of the 200 million population is grappling with the crippling effects of the pandemic.
“The House is also concerned 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 will amount to overkill, lack of empathy and height of insensitivity,” he said.
To this end, the House tasked Federal Government to direct the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) 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.
To this end, the House mandates its joint Committees on Power, Poverty Alleviation and Labour, Employment and Productivity to ensure compliance. Also at plenary, the House resolved to investigate the activities of Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) over the transfer of debts Incurred by old Customers to new users. The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by Hon. Shoyinka Olatunji, who called for the House intervention. In his lead debate, Hon. Shoyinka frowned at the level of impunity being perpetuated by the DISCOs in breach of extant regulations governing the industry and breach of customers’ rights.
“The House is aware of the constant complaints by electricity consumers on the poor services provided by Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) which are also in the habit of transferring outstanding debts of old customers to new users.
“The House is also aware that the Distribution Companies, which are responsible for the collection of payments for services rendered to consumers allow unpaid bills to accumulate, do not follow the laid down principles and guidelines by regulatory authorities towards unpaid bills and disconnection of non-paying customers.
“The House is concerned that if nothing is done to curb the act of transferring debts incurred by other consumers to new consumers, the latter will continue to bear the burden of paying for the electricity they did not consume.”
To this end, the House mandates its Committee on Power to engage the Distribution Companies and other relevant Regulatory Agencies to find a lasting solution and report within four weeks, adding that the Committee on Legislative Compliance to ensure compliance.