Lawmakers urge Federal Government to halt NERC from hiking electricity tariffs

*The Nigerian House of Representatives laments Nigerian consumers have not enjoyed significant improvement in power generation but grapple with daily epileptic power supply services from the Distribution Companies in the country

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Alleging lack of empathy for electricity consumers insignificant improvement in power generation and daily epileptic services from the Distribution Companies (DisCos), the Nigerian House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to stop the proposed increase of electricity tariffs slated for June 2021.

ConsumerConnect gathered this was part of the Federal legislators’ resolutions during plenary in the Green Chamber of the National Assembly (NASS) Thursday, May 20, in Abuja, FCT.

The House of Representatives in session

The Representatives stated that it is, therefore, essential to direct the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to cancel its decision on the proposed tariff increment in view of the hard times Nigerian consumers are experiencing currently.

The lawmakers also mandated the House Committees on Power, Poverty Alleviation as well as Labour, Employment and Productivity to ensure compliance with the directive.

Earlier, Hon. Aniekan Umanah, a member of the House of Representatives was said to have raised a motion seeking that the nation’s electricity regulator (NERC) should suspend the proposed increase in electricity tariffs in the country.

The lawmaker wondered why should there be an increase in electricity tariffs at a time Nigerians are going through hard times.

Umanah contended that governments all over the world were providing means to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of worsening them for their populations.

According to the motion in the House, the Electric Power Sector Act of 2005 established the NERC with a mandate to license DisCos, determine operating codes and standards, establish customer rights and obligations as well as set cost-reflective industry tariff.

The legislator as well noted that the Act prescribed its funding from 15 percent of electricity charges paid by consumers to the Distribution Companies.

However, NERC working with the DisCos, has increased the tariffs five times since 2015, the latest being on January 1, 2021, he argued.

In terms of lacking empathy for power consumers with the new proposal for tariff increment despite the increases in the recent years, Umanah lamented that Nigerians have not enjoyed significant improvement in power generation but grapple with daily epileptic services from the DISCOs.

Umanah accused the distribution companies of exploitation in the name of estimated billing arising from non-metering of over 50 percent of consumers across the country.

Effects of epileptic power supply on consumers and Nigerian economy

The Federal lawmaker further informed his colleagues that poor services by the DisCos have impacted negatively the socio-economic growth and development of Nigeria over the years.

Umanah also referenced the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Report of 2020 on Nigeria, indicating that the manufacturing sector lost over $200 billion to inadequate power supply, while $21 billion was said to have been spent by Nigerians on generators within the period under review.

Nigerians have gone through many hardships in recent times arising from acts of terrorism, banditry and kidnappings, he said.

He further stressed that he was concerned that at a time governments all over the world were adopting measures to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing a wide range of palliatives to losses of loved ones, jobs, businesses and general distortion in the social life, NERC rather is considering a further increase in electricity tariffs in a country where two-thirds of its over 200 million population are grappling with the effects of the damaging pandemic.

According him, the current economic recession, worsened by inflation, has resulted in disturbing prices of foodstuffs, and increased prices of petroleum products have triggered the further increase in transport costs and rents in the country.

While noting the spending power of an average Nigerian has drastically reduced, Umanah warned the authorities that any further hike in electricity tariffs would amount to overkill, lack of empathy, and height of insensitivity on the part of the government.

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