26 December 2013, Abuja – Unlike the old dispensation, electricity consumers in Nigeria now have the right to sue operators in the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry, NESI, over criminal activities, poor services or breach of agreement.
In an interview, the chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, Dr Sam Amadi, said any aggrieved electricity consumer has the right to sue the new power firms under the private sector-driven electricity market.
Amadi said, “The consumers have that right and I want to encourage consumers to exercise those rights. If people commit any violation of civil or criminal laws in the course of producing electricity, they are liable and could be convicted.”
Such matters, he said, could be taken before the regulators’ consumer complaints resolution mechanism or before a law court.
In the days of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the law shielded the firm from being sued by electricity consumers for poor services.
According to Amadi: “We have our consumer complaints unit, forum offices and we also have the NERC hearing.
So, if consumers have complaints against the power firms, they should go through that proper channel, but nothing stops the high courts in the country from hearing matters that people feel they can take to court.
“The Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act does not exclude the jurisdiction of the courts to adjudicate on disputes based on Chapter four of the nation’s constitution.
It has already given the courts the right to determine such disputes. The courts will likely tell you to go to the forum’s office if it has not gone to that extent, but if it is something of judicial review of decision, of course, the courts will take it. So, there is no immunity in the system,” he said.
He, however, appealed to consumers to organise themselves into a body to make input that could be exerted in the regulatory framework, and in a way that they can be part of the conversation.
“The consumers under the FoI Act should ask questions of regulators; ask questions of operators to show them the book. Ask us why you are charging this amount,” Amadi said.
*Juliet Alohan, Leadership