Halts Move, says it must be deferred till 2021
By Henry Umoru – Abuja
The National leadership of the National Assembly has intervened in the planned hike of electricity tariff by the providers, saying that this was not the time to carry out such an action.
According to the National Assembly, it will not be feasible for the Distribution Companies (DISCOs) to carry out with the proposed hike on July 1st, 2020, just as the Leadership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to immediately have been able to convince them to defer the plan till the first quarter of 2021, to which they agreed with.
With this development, the leadership of the National Assembly has succeeded in convincing the DISCOs to defer the plan until the first quarter of 2021.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and other principal officers of the two Chambers met at the National Assembly with the Chief Executives of the government electricity regulatory body and DISCOs across the country.
Also in attendance were the Chairmen of the Committees on Power from the Senate and House of Representatives.
The National Assembly leaders were emphatic at the meeting that the timing of the planned hike was wrong even though they had not many issues with the need to introduce a cost-reflective tariff for the power sector to attract the much-needed investment.
In the course of the meeting, the DISCOs too admitted that they were not well prepared for the planned hike in tariffs even though they so much desired the increase.
According to a statement, late Monday night by the Special Adviser, Media to the President of the Senate, Ola Awoniyi, the meeting agreed to defer the planned hike till the first quarter of next year while the leadership of the National Assembly promised to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue.
At the end of the meeting, Lawan said, “The agreement here is that there is not going to be an increase in the tariffs on July 1st.
“The Speaker and I, we are going to take appropriate action and meet with the President.
“We are in agreement here that there is no question on the justification of the increase but the time is simply not right and appropriate measures need to be put in place.
“So between now and the first quarter of next year, our task will be to work together with you to ensure that we put those blocks in place to support the eventual increase in tariffs ”
Lawan who noted that the government has been doing a lot as part of its obligations to provide some form of Intervention, said, “I’m quite aware that for this year, probably starting from last year, over N600 billion was earmarked for this sector to improve.
“The potential increase in the tariffs is definitely something that will be of concern to us in the National Assembly.
“There is too much stress in the lives of Nigerians today and indeed across the world because of the challenges imposed by COVID-19 pandemic and even before then, we had issues that would always make it tough for our people to effectively pay the tariffs.
“One way or the other, for this business to flourish, for this sector to be appropriately fixed, for it to attract investment, something has to give way, there is no doubt about that but it is also crucial that we look at the timing for any of our actions ”
Similarly, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Gbajabiamila who noted that the National Assembly was on the same page with the DISCOs on the issue of cost-reflective tariffs, said, “There is time for everything. A well-intended programme or policy of government can fall flat on the face and never recover if you do it at the wrong time. I think we all agree with that.
“There cannot be a time as bad as this for us to increase anything. Forget about electricity, anything. Whereas, even in time of decreasing revenue, we are even reducing the pump price. I don’t know how we can justify an increase in the cost of electricity at this time in Nigeria.
“The good thing is that we have agreed that we need to do something about the cost.”
Gbajabiamila posed some questions to DISCOs and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission(NERC): “How did we arrive at the tariffs or costs. Who were the stakeholders that were present? What was the role of the National Assembly? More importantly, is the President aware of this because the President is perhaps the biggest stakeholder of all, apart from the Nigerian people.
“Whatever will affect his government is something that should concern all of us. I think this will affect his government. This timing. Not the increase. The timing. I think it will affect his government and if it is going to affect his government, we should all rally around our people, our president, and the government to make sure we do the right thing,” Gbajabiamila said.
The representatives of the DISCOs said if the planned hike is eventually deferred till next year, the government should continue to bear the difference in the present tariff and what was considered as the appropriate tariff.
In attendance at the meeting were the representatives of NERC, Kano Electricity Distribution Company, Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company, and Eko Electricity Distribution Company.