02 March 2016, Lagos – A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, re-affirmed the order it made restraining Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff (hike), pending the hearing and final determination of the suit filed by a lawyer and rights activist, Toluwani Adebiyi, over the issue.
Trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, while delivering a ruling on the preliminary objections of NERC against the filing of contempt charge by the plaintiff, said “let me warn that when the disciplinary jurisdiction of this court is properly invoked, anyone who is found to have ignored the order of the court will be dealt with severely.
“The order of this court that parties in this suit should maintain the status quo remains valid and binding until it is set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“The issue of disobedience to court’s order is one that affects the integrity of the court. There is a need for the court to assert its authority and deal with any issue that is capable of bringing it to disrepute. Those who intend to take the judicial system for a ride should think twice and those who have done so should retrace their steps, the long arm of the law will catch up with them no matter how long it takes,” the court said.
Adebiyi had sought to commit NERC Chairman and Chief Executive Officers, CEOs of the Distribution Companies, Discos, to prison for announcing the implementation of the new electricity tariff despite a subsisting court order barring same.
But ruling on the application for the hearing of the contempt proceeding, Justice Idris set aside the Form 49 and the motion for committal to prison filed against the defendants by the plaintiff, noting that the issuance of form 49 on the defendants by the plaintiff without prior and proper service of form 48 is premature.
“In the circumstance, I hold that the defendant’s objection has merit. The court has set aside the contempt application due to fundamental and procedural irregularities,” the court said.
The court has since adjourned till March 15 for hearing of all pending applications. Adebiyi, in the substantive suit, is seeking an order restraining 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 the court restraining 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.