Minister of Power, NERC, DisCos, others to face Senate over electricity tariff increase

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Barring any last minute change of mind, the Senate may have resolved to summon stakeholders in the electricity sector over the proposed unilateral increase in electricity tariffs, The Nation learnt on Tuesday.

Findings showed that those likely to be invited include the Minister of Power, Engr. Saleh Mamman, Chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Prof. James Momoh, the Distribution Companies (DisCos) and other relevant stakeholders in the sector.

A member of the Senate Committee on Power, who confided in our reporters, said that “it will be insensitive on the part of the Senate to gloss over the unilateral increase NERC posted on its website.”

The Panel member who said his name should be left out of the story, because he is not the chairman of the Committee, insisted that “such far reaching tariff increase should not be carried out without Senate input.”

He noted that “the outburst of Nigerians, organisations and corporate bodies against the proposed increase should not be ignored.”

The Senate with the approval of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, he said, will articulate its position through a motion on the tariff increase on resumption of plenary on January 28, 2020.

He reasoned that it was also necessary to get the backing of the Senate President to ensure that the motion sails through.

The two-term Senator added that “even though it is necessary to enable the DisCos to break even to give power to Nigerians, it is also important to ensure due process.”

He noted that the intervention of the Senate in the raging crisis of electricity tariff increase may also mitigate legal tussle over the issue.

He noted that nobody should rule out the possibility of any interested party going to court to challenge the action of NERC.

He said: “Nigerians must not be left with the impression that there is nobody to speak for them. This is a critical moment in the life of our country.

“The Senate has an overarching function to perform to assuage the feelings of our people. Stakeholders in the electricity sector should be carried along for their input.

“Some of us are already working on a draft motion pending the approval of the Senate President.”

He also noted that the complaints of corporate bodies and other consumers should not be swept under the carpet.

According to him, the issue of comprehensive metering of consumers and assurance of constant power supply should be looked into.

“It is not just tariff increase. What is there for consumers after a possible increase should be clearly stated,” he insisted.

There had been widespread criticism of the proposed far-reaching electricity tariff hike by the NERC.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Kaduna State Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture have been stringent in their condemnation of the proposed tariff increase.

The PDP particularly asked the National Assembly to act promptly and decisively to save Nigerians from further neck stifling tariff increase.

The party said the: “increase in electricity tariff is a furtherance of the fleecing of Nigerians who are already overburdened and groaning under the weight of high costs, economic repression and heavy taxes foisted by the insensitive APC administration.

“It is lamentable that Nigerians, who are already suffering the devastating negative impact of the recent increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5 per cent to 7.5 by the APC administration, are now being further suppressed with increased electricity tariff.

“Our party holds that the increase in electricity tariff, under the prevailing harsh economic conditions, is injurious to the wellbeing of Nigerians as it will further stress the productive sector and lead to an upsurge in the cost of regular and essential goods and services, including food, medicine, housing, education and other critical needs.

“This APC policy, if allowed, will worsen the suffering of Nigerians as it will put more stress on already overburdened families, cripple businesses, result in job losses and exacerbate the prevailing frightening unemployment rate under the Buhari administration.”

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