14 July 2016, Lagos – A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, annulled the increment in electricity tariff recently announced by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC.
Trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris in his judgment in the suit by a human rights lawyer, Mr. Toluwani Adebiyi, challenging the increment, described NERC’s action as procedurally ultra vires, irrational, irregular and illegal.
In a swift reaction, labour applauded the judgment and asked NERC and DISCOs to immediately respect the ruling, describing it as a “victory for the ordinary Nigerian who had been crushed by exploitative bills.”
These developments came on a day the House of Representatives described the Distribution Companies, DISCOs, as the biggest scam in Nigeria and called on the Federal Government to halt any tariff by 100 per cent in the country.
On the judgement,the court, relying on Sections 31, 32 and 76 of the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act(EPSRA) 2005, in deciding the substantive suit, held that, “NERC acted outside the powers conferred on it by the Act and failed to follow the prescribed procedure.
“NERC has not shown that it acted in due obedience to the prescribed procedures and that there is no evidence that NERC complied with Section 76(6)(7)and (9) of the EPSRA Act.
“Of all the legal requirements, it appeared the only one complied with by NERC was that it announced the new tariff in the newspapers. It is clear from the affidavit evidence that the increase in tariff was done by NERC in defiance of the order of this court made on May 28, 2015, which directed parties in the case to maintain the status quo. The law is that every person upon whom an order is made by a court of competent jurisdiction must obey it, unless and until the order is discharged and set aside on appeal.”
The court consequently, held that,” The tariff increase from July 1, 2015 was done in breach of the ‘status quo’ order. NERC’s action, was therefore, clearly hasty, reckless and irresponsible.
“This country is in a democracy where the rule of law shall prevail over impunity or whimsical desires. Anything to the contrary will be an invitation to anarchy. It is the law that what is done officially must be done in accordance to the law. Investors are free to do business in Nigeria but they shall abide by the law of this country. Nigeria is not a kangaroo State. Nigeria is not a banana Republic. It is intolerance and extremely dangerous for any branch of the executive to create a posture it may not obey certain orders of the court. That is tantamount to executive recklessness which will lead to lawlessness.”
Invoking its disciplinary jurisdiction, the court ordered: “The increment in electricity tariff which took effect after the institution of this action and while a restraining order is subsisting is, hereby, declared illegal and same is hereby set aside. NERC is, hereby, directed to revevert to the status quo and the commission is, hereby, restrained from further increasing electricity tariff except it complies strictly with the relevant provisions of the EPSRA.”
The sum of N50,000 was awarded in favour of the plaintiff. Reacting to the judgement, organised labour applauded it and asked NERC and DISCOs to immediately respect the ruling and revert to the old tariff without further delay. According to labour, the judgement is a “victory for the ordinary Nigerian who has been crushed by exploitative bills.”