Senate suspends move to stop electricity tariff hike

The Senate has suspended the consideration of a report recommending the suspension of the increase in electricity tariff by the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), pending legal advice.

The resolution was a sequel to a point of order raised by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Titus Zam, during the plenary.

The Deputy Senate President, Barau Jibrin, announced the resolution after a majority of the senators supported it through voice votes.

In February, the Senate rejected the increase in the electricity tariff and directed its Committee on Power to investigate the circumstances surrounding the increment and submit a comprehensive report for further legislative action.

Despite the resolution, the NERC in April announced an increment in the electricity tariff from N68 per kilowatt-hour to N225 for consumers in Band A (about 15 per cent of electricity consumers).

Many Nigerians including lawmakers condemned the increment on the basis that it was not fair to electricity consumers.

But when the Chairman of the Committee on Power, Enyinnaya Abaribe, presented a report on the issue during Thursday’s plenary directing NERC to reverse the increment, many of the lawmakers in their separate contributions rejected the reversal saying the matter is already before a Federal High Court in Kano.



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Recommendation

Mr Abaribe (PDP, Abia South), while presenting the report, said the committee recommended that the Ministry of Power and NERC should in the meantime adopt measures to address the problem of power scarcity rather than increasing it.

It recommended that NERC should hold the electricity distribution companies accountable in the area of performance.

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The committee stressed that the mass metering programme of the federal government should be encouraged to address the current metering gap.

It further recommended that the Ministry of Power should establish an “Electricity Consumer Protection (ECP) Unit to develop, implement and enforce the Electricity Consumer Protection component of the Electricity Act, 2023. 34(2)(c) and 119 (1)(f)”

Suspension

Mr Zam, who represents Benue North-west, raised the observation that the matter is already before a Federal High Court and subsequently urged the Senate to suspend the consideration of the report.

Jimoh Ibrahim (APC, Ondo South) supported the suspension.

Mr Ibrahim said it would be an aberration if the Senate should continue to debate an issue that is “subjudice.”

The deputy senate president who presided over the plenary, thereafter, ruled that the committee’s report be suspended pending advice from the National Assembly’s legal department.

Mr Barau specifically said the report will be suspended until all legal issues surrounding it are resolved.

“I think there is a need for us to look at both sides. He is the chairman and he is an important person. He is the chairman of rules and business committee.

“I think having raised the issue by the chairman of the rules and business committee, we need to hold on a while and look into his observation and then try to create time to consult our legal department to see if we can continue, this is my opinion.

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“I cannot disregard the suggestion or observation by chairman rules and business. That will not be fair, so we are not saying that we will not continue with the report but let us stand it down until we resolve the legal issues involved.

“Your order is sustained. Maybe by the next sitting, we can continue the process after we have taken the advice of our legal department,” he added.



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