16 February 2016, Lagos— A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has warned the Federal Government and Distribution Companies, DISCOs, against disobeying subsisting court orders on electricity tariff. Also, Trade Union Congress, TUC, and union affiliates, with placards, on Monday, at the premises of the Federal High Court, Lagos, protested the hike in electricity tariff by Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC and DISCOs.
Trial judge in the matter, Justice Mohammed Idris, at the resumed hearing in the matter, yesterday, said government must not act in a way that shows disdain for the court in a constitutional democracy.
Justice Idris said: “The point must be made that obedience to the rule of law by all citizens is sacrosant, but more particularly those who publicly take the oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is panacea to good governance and respect for rule of law. In a constitutional democratic society like ours, this is meant to be the norm.
“It is an act of apostacy for government to ignore the provisions of the law and the necessary rules meant to regulate matters. I must say it loud and clear that the government of this country shall be a government of laws and not of men.”
Labour unions protest Protests by labour unions have trailed the new power tarriff approved by NERC. Activist and lawyer, Mr Toluwani Adebiyi, had last year in a suit sought a perpetual injunction restraining NERC from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff without significant improvement in power supply for at least 18 hours a day.
Justice Idris had made an order directing parties to maintain status quo. But, while the suit was pending, NERC announced the tariff hike.
Yesterday, Adebiyi informed the court that he had initiated contempt proceedings against NERC chairman and DISCOs’ Managing Directors for disobeying the court’s orders and prayed the court to commit the alleged contemnors to prison.
But NERC’s lawyer, Chief Anthony Idigbe, SAN, said he had filed an appeal against the order by Justice Idris.
He said he also had a pending application for stay of proceedings pending determination of the appeal. Adebiyi said the contempt charge should be heard first since NERC had undermined the court’s authority.
In a short ruling, Justice Idris said after a careful examination of the records of court, there were a number of pending applications to be dispensed with. Among them is the Form 49 filed by the plaintiff and a motion for leave to serve the purported contemnors through their counsel.