Written by Sarah NEGEDU

Electricity tariff hike: FCT residents, labour kick

Electricity consumers in the nation’s capital continue to frown on the N9.60 per kilo watts hour increase in electricity tariff, describing the development as draconian and an indication of government’s insensitivity to the plight of the masses.

Residents of Abuja now pay N24.30k against N14.70 k since the new tariff came into effect despite a subsisting court order.

A cross section of residents who spoke to our correspondent say though hike was inevitable, the regulatory body should have shown some considerations and allowed the House of Reps Committee on Power conclude its investigations into activities of operators in the sector.

Some residents say the new tariff, effective from February 1, was unjustified and not commensurate to power supply by the distribution companies.

Mrs. Chisom Obiora, who runs a cold room in Kubwa, said the increment was rather high, which can discourage small business owners in Nigeria. She feared that the increase would take its toll on her business as she may have to pay close to 100 percent more for electricity.

“Before now we were paying between N6, 500 to N7, 500 for electricity every month, but with the increase now I believe we would be paying up to N13, 000 to N15, 000 monthly. How much does one make from frozen food that I will be coughing out N1500?

“Some of us may just have to close down our businesses if we can’t cope with the increase because certainly we would have to increase the prices of goods,” she concluded.

For Nasiru Mohammed, the tariff increase is uncalled for since the privatisation of the sector seem not to have yielded the desired result two years after its implementation.

He said government should have compelled the new owners of power chain in the country to improve on power supply and distribution before rewarding them with high increment such as we have now.

“I believe rewards should come after performance, but in this case, government is encouraging the distribution companies to reap off the helpless consumers. It is being over two years since the privatisation of PHCN, yet the new owners are yet to move beyond where we were when electricity was in the hands of government. The only thing they have succeeded in doing is to charge us more whenever they feel like.”

Mohammed expressed fear that unmetered customers like himself may end up being worst off of the new tariff, saying he had had to contend with outrageous estimates in the past and fears it may be worst under the new tariff.

The House of Representative had weeks back, issued a stay of action to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission pending when its ad-hoc committee investigating the activities of Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, concludes investigations on the power situation in the country.

In a letter to the NERC, the committee reminded the commission of previous communications in which it was advised to suspend further actions regarding review of electricity tariff in Nigeria.

However the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, declared that the National Assembly lacks the power to stop the NERC from reviewing electricity tariffs, insisting that the commission was constitutionally empowered to set electricity tariffs for consumers in the country.

In a related development, labour is set to protest the tariff hike across the country and have directed its affiliates to picket all offices of the DISCOs, Generation Companies, GENCOs, and the offices of the NERC.

Giving reasons for the protest, labour said: “The due process in the extant laws for such increment was not followed in consonance with section 76 of the Power Sector Reform Act, 2005.

“There has been no significant improvement in service delivery. Moreover, the fact is that most consumers are not metered in accordance with the signed privatization Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, of November 1, 2013, which stipulates that within 18 months gestation period, all consumers are to be metered.

“There is a subsisting Court Order dated May 28, 2015, by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, in the case of Toluwani Yemi-Adebiyi versus NERC & Orders, that there shall be no further increment until the determination of the substantive suit.

“The increment at this time negates the present biting and prevailing economic recession vis-a-vis an attempt to further impoverish the poor masses.”

The statement was signed by Comrade Ayuba Wabba, president of the NLC.

Acting head of the NERC, Dr. Anthony Akah, also assured electricity consumers that the new tariff structure is not as draconian as feared saying, “there are inbuilt consumer protection mechanisms and incentives for improved service delivery by the DISCOs and fair return on investment in the new Tariff Order.”

He said the removal of fixed charge under the new tariff regime, are part of incentives in the new tariff.

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