13 June 2015, Lagos – Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday renewed an earlier order restraining the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) from implementing the new electricity tariff billed to be effective from June 1, 2015.
The judge had in a ruling on an ex-parte application filed by a Lagos lawyer, Toluwani Yemi Adebiyi, restrained the NERC and the electricity distribution companies from effecting any increment in electricity tariff pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
When the matter came up on Thursday, Adebiyi told the court that as directed, all the processes in the matter, including the enrolled order of court, had been served on the NERC.
He added that by the provisions of the rules of court, NERC had seven days to respond, but that the commission was yet to do so.
He said in as much as he would love to proceed, but that it would be fair to give the commission benefit of doubt.
He, however, urged the court to renew the order, so as to preserve the subject matter of the suit.
According to him, “My Lord, everybody is affected. Even this court is running on generator. There is a need to stop them from increasing the electricity tariff because Nigerians can’t afford such and there is no justification for such increment.”
In response, a legal officer with the NERC, Ifeanyi Umunna, said the commission had complied with the interim orders of court.
He added that the NERC was in the process of appointing a counsel to defend the suit, and pleaded for more time to do so.
Justice Idris, in a short ruling, held that “the ex-parte order remains valid and subsisting.”
The matter was thereafter adjourned to July 9, 2015 for hearing.
Adebiyi, in the suit, is seeking an order restraining the NERC from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff without a meaningful and significant improvement in power supply at least for 18 hours in a day in most communities in Nigeria.
He also wants an order restraining the NERC from foisting compulsory service charge on pre-paid meters not until “the meters are designed to read charges per second of consumption and not a flat rate of service not rendered or power not used.”
He also wants the service charge on pre-paid meters not to be enforced until there is visible efficient and reliable power supply like those of foreign countries where the idea of service charge was borrowed.
Adebiyi is further asking for an order of court mandating the NERC to do the needful and generate more power to meet the electricity use of Nigerians, adding that the needful should include and not limited to a multiple long-term financing approach, sourced from the banks, capital market, insurance and other sectors of finance to power the sector.
Finally, the lawyer is asking the court to mandate the NERC to make available to all Nigerians within a reasonable time of maximum of two years, prepaid meters as a way to stop the throat-cutting indiscriminate estimated bill and which must be devoid of the arbitrary service charge, but only chargeable on power consumed.
In an affidavit in support of the suit personally deposed to by the applicant, the lawyer lamented that despite the motto and mission of NERC which were expressly stated as “keeping the light on and to meet the needs of Nigeria for safe, adequate, reliable and affordable electricity,” most communities in Nigeria do not get more than 30 minutes if electricity supply, while the remaining 23 hours and 30 minutes were always without light and in total darkness.
“Nigeria poor masses are paying an estimated and indiscriminate residential bills ranging from N5,000 to N18,000, spending an average of N15,000 to N20,000 for fuel to maintain generating set.
“Businesses have collapsed, industries have closed down, and residents cannot sleep comfortably at night due to inefficiency of our power industry.
“Companies and commercial houses are groaning under throat-cutting power bill which they are paying for, yet not getting the benefit for such payment,” Adebiyi stated.
He stressed that the proposed increase in electricity tariff was coming amidst the tangled web of poor power supply with no reasonable proof of improvement.
“The situation is self evident, it readily speaks for itself because everyone is suffering from poor power outrage.
“Bringing further increase amidst this tangled web of hardship and without any improvement in power supply, will be highly unjustifiable and will be an economic burden on Nigeria populace. It is totally absurd and not for the good of the people, and therefore must be stopped,” Adebiyi submitted.
*Davidson Iriekpen – Thisday