National Assembly prescribes N500,000 penalty for unapproved utility tariff increase

*National Assembly.

*National Assembly.

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

09 October 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The National Assembly has prescribed N500, 000 fine on any provider of water, electricity and other utilities who increases tariff without recourse to the Utilities Charges Commission.

This new fine, contained in the amendment to Utility Charges Commission (Amendment) Act 2004, passed by the Senate yesterday, implied 4,900 percent increase from the existing N10,000 fine in the original Act.

The bill had earlier been passed by the House of Representatives. Speaking on the astronomical increase of the fine, Deputy Senate Leader, Ibn Na’Allah, said the amendment was done to reflect the current realities.

The sections amended to reflect the new fine in the existing law include sections 7 (2), 11 (5) and 13 (2).

With the amendment, any utility service provider must first get approval from the commission before increasing tariffs and bringing hardship on Nigerians.

The Senate gave its concurrence to the amendment bill, which had already been passed by the House of Representatives.

In his lead debate on the Bill, Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, said the amendment was in line with current realities in the country.

Provisions in the existing law which are amended include Sections 7 (2), 11 (5), 13 (2), which increased the fine from N10, 000 to N500, 000.

Section 7 as amended reads: “As from the commencement of this Act, a scheduled utility intending to vary or increase its charges, tariff or rates shall first seek the commission’s approval for such permissible increase.

“A person who contravenes the provisions of the subsection of one of this section commits an offence under this Act and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500, 000.”

The Senate also referred the screening of nominees to the Board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to its Committee on Communications and directed the committee to report back in two weeks.

Those to be screened are Olabiyi Durojaiye (Chairman), Sunday Dare (Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management), Aliyu Abubakar (Non-Executive Commissioner), Clement Baiye (Non-Executive Commissioner) and Okoi Obia (Non-Executive Commissioner).

Others are Ezekiel Yissa (Non-Executive Commissioner) and Ifeanyi Ararume (Non-Executive Commissioner).

The Senate also 12 Bills, including Defence Space Agency Bill, Agricultural Credit Scheme Act (Amendment) Bill, University of Abuja (Amendment) Bill, Chattered Institute of Stock Brokers Act (Amendment) Bill.

Other bills approved are Advertising Practitioners Act (Amendment) Bill, Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act (Amendment) Bill and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Agency (Amendment) Bill.

They also included Utilities Charges Commission Act (Amendment) Bill.

Other bills passed include National Judicial Institute Act (Amendment) Bill: Endangered Species Act (Amendment) Bill and Quantity Surveyors Act (Amendment) Bill.

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