REASONS NIGERIA ELECTRICITY REGULATORY COMMISSION AND ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION COMPANIES MUST SUSPEND HIKE IN ELECTRICITY TARIFF
The Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, in conjunction with Electricity Distribution Companies in Nigeria, popularly called DISCOS, introduced a 45% hike in electricity tariff with effect from February 1, 2016. The argument of NERC and DISCOS for this latest outrageous hike in electricity tariff is that it would bring about enhancement in service delivery and customers' satisfaction. However, this reason advanced by NERC and DISCOS does not hold water in view of the fact that past increases in electricity tariff never brought about corresponding increase in quantity of power supply in Nigeria, enhancement in service delivery and customers' satisfaction.
Whatever reasons NERC and DISCOS have for the current hike in electricity tariff, the reality on ground remains that it is a wrong step at the wrong time and should not have come in the first place. Here are reasons NERC DISCOS must suspend the latest anti-people and outrageous 45% hike in electricity tariff.
The latest hike in electricity tariff by electricity regulators in Nigeria is an unlawful act and tantamounts to a contempt of court order. Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos, had on May 28, 2015 directed NERC to suspend all actions relating to any increment in electricity tariff pending the hearing and final determination of a suit filed by a lawyer on the matter. That NERC has gone ahead to increase electricity tariff in face of a pending suit on the matter is the height of disobedience against the law of Nigeria.
Currently, electricity distributions companies have not metered millions of electricity consumers in Nigeria. They overbill consumers indiscriminately without relying on electricity meters. Nigerians are already over-paying DISCOS for electricity in the country. The issue of hike in power tariff should only become a matter of discussion and perhaps, consideration when electricity supply improves and consumers metered.
Nigeria is perhaps, the only country in the world where consumers pay for services not delivered and enjoyed. The challenge of power generation and supply in Nigeria has been with us for decades. The reality is that there has never been any time since independence of Nigeria in 1960, when Nigerians enjoyed sufficient and uninterrupted electricity supply. Many Nigerians have paid electricity authorities in the country for supplying them darkness and this should not be allowed to continue.
Many Nigerians are already facing serious financial challenges and find it difficult to meet their basic needs as a result of the dwindling economic fortune of their country in the face of drastic fall in price of crude oil, their country's mainstay. Thousands are losing jobs and the purchasing power of millions of Nigerians have been reduced drastically as a result of continued decline in the value of Nigerian Naira vis-a-vis major international currencies. Obviously, ordinary Nigerians cannot afford any hike in electricity tariff now. This is not the best of times economically for millions of poor Nigerians.
Nigeria is a country where the government takes its citizens for granted by not consulting them before embarking on actions and policies that affect the them. The Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission and Electricity Distribution Companies did not consult widely with Nigerians, with a view to carrying them along and obtaining their consent before effecting the current outrageous hike in electricity tariff.
Poor power supply is one of the key reasons the industrial/manufacturing sector in Nigeria remains comatose. This latest increase in electricity tariff, if not reversed by the government would only succeed in further killing industrial sector in Nigeria by stifling industries that are already spending humongous amounts of money buying diesel and other petroleum products for production and take away what could have remained as their profits. The ultimate consequence of this would be shut down of several production outfits in the country, more job losses for Nigerians and increase rate in crime and other social vices in the land.
Every free market economy should be regulated by the forces of demand and supply. The former Power Holding Company of Nigeria was privatised by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2013. Power distribution in the country has been in the hands of private distribution companies popularly known as DISCOS. The various DISCOS in Nigeria should provide sufficient electricity supply for consumers. Power generation and distribution in Nigeria now hovers between 4500 and 5000 megawatts. This is grossly inadequate for millions of private, commercial and industrial consumers in Nigeria. It therefore makes no logical sense that electricity tariff is being increase in Nigeria when supply is still very low. Nigerians CANNOT afford to pay more for a service in short supply to them and almost out of reach from many.
The Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission and DISCOS cannot be said to be acting in isolation from the government of Nigeria in this latest outrageous increase in electricity tariff. To lend credence to this view, reacting to the mass nation-wide protests by the Nigerian Labour Congress as a result of the hike in electricity tariff, the Nigerian Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola describes latest increase in electricity tariff as ''a painful pill Nigerians MUST (emphasis mine) swallow''. It is therefore obvious that the federal government of Nigeria is behind this inhuman, unlawful and anti-masses hike in electricity price to further strangulate millions of Nigerians who are already maligned economically and further impoverished them. While looking for alternative ways and avenues to generate revenue for the country as a result of the fall in the fall of crude oil, the federal government of Nigeria MUST be careful not to create more problems and destroy the country's economy further. Government is about the people and should therefore, listen to the people. The people of Nigeria say no to hike in electricity tariff and the government MUST listen and act in the interest of its citizens whom it claims to represent. Poor Nigerians should not be made to pay for decades of corruption and sins of the so-called 'ruling class' in Nigeria that have brought the country to the sorry and appalling state she finds herself in every aspect of her life today.
I take responsibility for any errors that may be found in this article.
Frank, Chukwuka Osimi.