24 March 2014, News Wires – The United Nations has published the Joint Letter of Concern sent to the government of President Goodluck Jonathan in which they expressed concerns that “access to electricity (and regularity of supply) is a significant problem in Nigeria,” and raised eight questions for the government to answer within 60 days.
The letter by two special rapporteurs expressed concerns that “at the end of 2012, Nigeria with a population of about 160 million people only generated about 4,000 megawatts of electricity, which is ten times less than some other countries in the region with less population.”
“To date, the government has not responded to the eight crucial questions raised by the UN on the unfair and discriminatory electricity tariff,” said Adetokunbo Mumuni, Executive Director Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP.
The UN special rapporteurs argued that “all beneficiaries of the right to adequate housing should have sustainable access to energy for cooking, heating and lighting. The failure of the States to provide basic services such as electricity is a violation of the right to health.”
The rapporteurs Ms. Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights and Ms. Raquel Rolnik Special Rapporteur on adequate housing sent the letter following a petition lodged last year by a coalition of human rights activists, labour, journalists and lawyers led by SERAP. The petition alleged that the implementation of the Multi-Year Tariff Order II, MYTO II, by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC is “having detrimental impact on the human rights of those living in poverty in the country.”
Consequently, the special rapporteurs wanted answers to the following questions: Are the facts alleged by SERAP and others accurate?; What kind of impact assessments were conducted to gauge the potential impact of the electricity tariff increases on the human rights of people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria? If so, provide details; Did public consultations take place, including with potentially affected persons and especially people living in extreme poverty, prior to the adoption of the new Multi-Year Tariff Order II? If yes, please give details of the dates, participants and outcomes of the consultations.
Was accessible and culturally adequate information about the measure actively disseminated through all available channels prior to consultation?; What measures have been put in place to ensure that the human rights of people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria will not be undermined by the increase in electricity tariffs? In particular, what measures are in place to ensure that they can enjoy their right to adequate housing, including sustainable access to energy for cooking, heating and lighting, which is a component of this right?
What mechanisms exist to ensure transparency, accountability and regular monitoring over the use of tariff revenue within the government? What mechanisms are available to address allegations of corruption, or other complaints? What mechanisms are in place to monitor and regulate service provision by private actors, as required under the State’s duty to protect?
Please describe any existing policies or measures aimed to promote affordability of electricity provision for people living in extreme poverty. Are any subsidies already available and implemented? What is being done to mitigate the hardship imposed by increased tariffs, especially for persons living in poverty?
According to the special rapporteurs, “We would be most grateful to receive a response within 60 days, which will be made available in the report that we will submit to the Human Rights Council for its consideration of the matter.”
They said that services “such as electricity must be provided without discrimination towards people living in poverty and that no one should be denied access to essential services because of an inability to pay”.
They also said that, “Less than 50 per cent of registered electricity customers have access to electricity meters, and ongoing inaccuracies in measuring electricity usage will continue to hinder fair electricity access and exchange.”
They wanted answers to the alleged “mismanagement throughout the privatization process, and around $3.5 billion that has been mismanaged annually over the last ten years, and a total of $16 billion released to improve electricity supply in the country that has not been properly accounted for.
Other signatories to the petition sent to the special rapporteurs in September last year include: the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE); Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ); Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center (WARDC); Women Empowerment and Legal Aid Initiative (WELA); Partnership for Justice (PJ); Education Rights Campaign (ERC); Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Lagos State Council; Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Lagos; Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Ikeja branch; National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), and Joint Action Front (JAF).