12 January 2015, Abuja – After entertaining the legal arguments from counsels to both petitioner and respondents in a case of alleged unlawful electricity trading and financial scam perpetrated in a Lagos high-rise estate, the 1004 Housing Estate, Victoria Island, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) on Tuesday fixed March 3, 2015 to deliver its final ruling on the matter.
The three-man NERC panel comprising its Vice Chairman, Muhammed Bello, Commissioner Legal, Licensing and Enforcement, Dr. Steven Adzenge and Commissioner Engineering, Safety and Standards, Mary Awolokun, adjourned the matter for ruling, after listening to the arguments of the counsel to the petitioner (Samuel Aremu, a resident of the 1004 Estate), A. J Owonikoko (SAN) and Olakunle Moruhundiya, counsel to the first and second respondents, 1004 Estates Limited and Samuel Ukpong.
They explained that the March date was fixed to allow the commission some good time to consider the arguments of parties and come up with a fair judgment in line with the merits of the case and dictates of the Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act 2005, which is being contested therein.
The NERC panel stated that it needed at least one week to write its final judgment, hence the March 3 date.
Both parties in this regard accepted the adjournment and will therefore reconvene on the said date for the final ruling.
At the hearing of the petition brought by Aremu on October 3, 2014, Owonikoko submitted that the entire case was interrelated and should be considered alongside the preliminary objection. Moruhundiya however objected and insisted that the preliminary objection should be heard first, a request the panel granted.
Aremu had in the petition claimed that the respondents, had in breach of Section of 63(1) and (5) of the EPSR Act 2005, engaged in illegal trading in electricity in the estate and for which residents in the estate are fraudulently charged by the respondents.
He averred that the first respondent has no licence from NERC to generate or transmit electricity in the estate, thus opposing the jurisdictional responsibility of the third respondent, Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC).
According to him, the first and second respondents have only not allegedly unlawfully traded in electricity but also illegally imposed charges in excess of N1,348,686,100.03 amongst other charges on the residents and thereafter resorted to disconnecting electricity services from flats of residents who contested the development.
Aremu, in his petition which he said was made on behalf of residents in the estate, also stated that the first and second respondents charged and collected N120, 000 per apartment for installation of single and three phase prepaid consumer meters, in addition to the hiking of electricity tariff from an initial N50 per kilowatt hour (Kwh) to N75 and then N41.20K.
He prayed NERC to amongst others, ask the first and second respondents to stop their operation as it relates to electricity in the estate, refund the N1, 348,686,100.03 illegally imposed to residents and representing sums paid for the period of January 2012 to the end of September 2014 or such sum as the NERC may order, as well as difference in the cost of pre-paid meters which they charged to residents.
He also urged that the first respondent be perpetually restrained from disconnecting the electricity supply to any apartment in the estate and that the third respondent, EKEDC be ordered to take over transmission of electricity to the estate as a legal licensee of NERC.
But in his preliminary objection to the petition, Moruhundiya stated that Aremu was only a resident in the estate and does not have the authority of residents in the estate to petition the commission as he did.
He thus argued that the petitioner is different from the association of residents in the estate, which he claims to represent, in addition to his failure to exhaust extant reconciliation options at the local level as proposed by NERC, before petitioning the commission.
According to him, the reliefs sought by the petitioner cannot be said to be right as he does not seem to represent residents in the estate.
His arguments were however opposed by Owonikoko who argued that the petitioner was right in his petition, having satisfied all conditions such as obtaining the authority to represent residents in the estate, as well as taking up the case with the local forum office of EKEDC.
– This Day