Reprieve for electricity consumers over tariff hike

TARIFF REJECT           Electricity consumers who were worried by the burden of the recent 45 percent increase in tariff by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) got a reprieve in February when the Senate directed the Commission to suspend its implementation by electricity distribution companies.

The Senate specifically asked the NERC to maintain the status quo, pending the outcome of further deliberations on the matter with relevant authorities. The motion to suspend the implementation of the new tariff was moved by Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC, Bauchi). He argued that considering current economic realities, it was unrealistic to increase electricity tariffs. Supporting the motion, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said Nigerians were already on life support and urged his colleagues to reject the new increment.

Senator Albert Bassey who also supported the suspension of the increase enjoined the Senate to take a stand to protect the interest of Nigerians. “How can anyone increase the tariff when things are high? Why will a government agency do that? We need to be firm,” Bassey said.

Senator Dino Melaye urged lawmakers to look beyond the suspension of the new tariff regime. He said there was need to call on electricity generation and distribution companies to pay back loans they obtained from the Federal Government to get meters for their customers. Melaye said: “this increase makes it the fourth time that electricity tariffs will be up after the privatisation of the power sector. Their excuse has always been that they want to improve on the electricity. There was a time that the government gave loans to distribution and generation companies to buy metres and give to customers. They are yet to pay back that loan,” he said.

Based on the opposition to the tariff hike by many senators, Bukola Saraki, Senate President mandated the committees on Labour and Power to meet with agencies of government to find a lasting solution after public hearings on the matter. “NERC should forthwith suspend the implementation of the new tariff. I believe that when we have a public hearing, these issues will be addressed. Until then, the new regime stands suspended,” he said.

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