A file photo of a transformer. Inset: NERC logo.
The House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to stop the proposed increase of electricity tariff for June.
This formed part of the resolutions by the lawmakers during Thursday’s plenary in the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
They stressed that it was important to direct the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to rescind its decision on the proposed increment in view of the hard times Nigerians were going through.
Similarly, the lawmakers mandated the House Committees on Power, Poverty Alleviation, as well as Labour, Employment and Productivity to ensure compliance with the directive.
A member of the House, Aniekan Umanah, had raised a motion seeking that the nation’s electricity regulator should suspend the proposed increase in electricity tariff.
He wondered why there would be an increase in electricity tariff at a time when Nigerians were going through hard times and governments all over the world were providing means to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the motion, the Electric Power Sector Act of 2005 established the NERC with a mandate to license Distribution Companies (DISCOs), determine operating codes and standards, establish customer rights and obligations, as well as set cost-reflective industry tariff.
The lawmaker stated that the Act prescribed its funding from 15 per cent of electricity charges paid by consumers to distribution companies.
He decried that NERC, working with the distribution companies, had increased the tariff five times since 2015, the latest being on January 1, 2021.
Lack Of Empathy
Despite the increases, Umanah lamented that Nigerians have not enjoyed significant improvement in power generation but grapple with daily epileptic services from the DISCOs.
He also accused the distribution companies of exploitation in the name of estimated billing arising from non-metering of over 50 per cent of consumers across the country.
The lawmaker informed his colleagues that poor services by the DISCOs have impacted negatively on the socio-economic growth of the country, saying the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Report of 2020 on Nigeria indicated 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.
He noted that Nigerians have gone through many hardships in recent times arising from acts of terrorism, banditry, and kidnappings.
Umanah said 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 was considering a further increase in electricity tariff in a country where two-thirds of its 200 million population were grappling with the effects of the pandemic.
He stressed that the current economic recession made worse 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.
The lawmaker added that the spending power of an average Nigerian has drastically reduced, warning that any further hike in electricity tariff would amount to overkill, lack of empathy, and height of insensitivity on the part of the government.