On Tuesday evening, the Nigerian Senate President, Bukola Saraki, posted a message on his Facebook wall informing Nigerians that the 8th Senate has directed the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to suspend the February 1st, 2016 tariff hikes immediately.
“The move to suspend the tariff hikes was necessary because an increase in cost without the necessary improvement in service delivery is unacceptable,” Bukola Saraki noted.
The NERC, on December 21st 2015, announced new tariffs payable by electricity consumers, indicating an increase in charges for different categories of consumers and abolished the fixed charges. It said that the new changes will take effect from the next billing period, which was February 1, 2016. When this announcement was made last year, members of the House of Representatives resolved that the NERC should not go ahead with the upward review until it had concluded a probe of the privatisation of the power sector. The regulatory agency ignored the House Resolution and went ahead to increase the tariffs by over 45 percent.
Before the 1st of February 2016, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said that the electricity tariff would increase ‘slightly’. However, a more than 45 percent increase cannot be classified as a slight increment, instead, many consider it to be ‘daylight robbery’ especially considering the recent hardship citizens face due to the fall of the Naira.
The NERC should focus more on providing solutions to the present problems which consumers face, such as crazy billing and a lack of access to electricity and prepaid meters, rather than increasing electricity tariffs. As a result of this increase, the Nigerian Labour Congress embarked on a protest in an effort to get the NERC to hold on with its new tariffs. On Monday, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos also warned the Federal Government and Distribution Companies (DISCOs) against failing to comply with subsisting court orders on the electricity tariff.
“The power distribution companies must work to ensure that every establishment in Nigeria is provided with capabilities for metered billing. Doing this would end the sharp practice of arbitrary billing, which estimates the power consumption of Nigerians in the generation of their monthly bills,” Bukola stated further in his Facebook post.