• Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Reps want electricity tariff hike suspended as hard times bite Nigerians

The House of Representatives Thursday urged the Federal Government to direct the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission to rescind the decision to further increase the electricity tariff proposed for June 2021 in view of the hard times Nigerians are going through.

The House which reached the resolution at plenary when it adopted a motion sponsored by Aniekan Umanah (PDP, Akwa-Ibom) also mandated the Committees on Power, Poverty Alleviation and Labour, Employment and Productivity to ensure compliance.

Moving the motion, Umanah recalled that 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.

According to the lawmaker, the Electric Power Sector Act prescribed its funding from 15% of electricity charges paid by customers to Distribution Companies.

He noted that NERC, working with Distribution Companies, has increased electricity tariffs five times since 2015, the latest being on 1 January 2021.

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Umanah said: “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”.

He observed 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 former Akwa-Ibom State Commissioner for Information also observed 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 millions of naira.

He expressed concern 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”.

Umanah was 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”.

Similarly, the House resolved to investigate transferred debts incurred by old electricity customers to new users by Distribution Companies in Nigeria.

It, therefore, mandated the Committee on Power to engage the Distribution Companies and other relevant Regulatory Agencies, particularly NERC to find a lasting solution and report within four (4).

The Green Chamber also asked the Power Committee to investigate the status of operation of prepaid meters as a policy of the Federal Government and mandated the Committee on Legislative Compliance to ensure compliance.

These resolutions were sequel to the adoption of a motion moved by
Shoyinka Olatunji from Lagos State lamented the constant complaints by electricity consumers on the poor services provided by DISCOs which are also in the habit of transferring outstanding debts of the old customer to new users.

“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.

“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”, he argued.