Electricity tariff: Nigerians Are Paying For Darkness – Toby Okechukwu

The Deputy Minority of the House of Representatives, Toby Okechukwu has raised the alarm on the recently announced increment in electricity tariffs. Mr. Okechukwu queried the basis for the increment which resulted in the Enugu zone being charged more than Lagos. He said that the House through its committee on Power will interrogate the increment.

According to the new increment released by Nigeria, Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC) electricity consumers in Ikeja got an increment from N13.34 per kWh since under the 2015 MYTO when the last review was carried out to N21.80 per kWh, while consumers in Enugu who used to pay about N17.42 per kWh will, under the new order, pay about N30.93 kWh.

The National Assembly is still on holiday. The lawmaker said that tariff should commensurate with power supply, noting that Nigerians are paying for darkness. “Nigerians are really hurting, cost is supposed to be based on certain parameters, and for the level of the increase, particularly in the Enugu distribution zone, is completely abnormal. It is almost the highest, that is in addition to other incoherent policies in the conduct of the company (Enugu Electricity Distribution Company).

“We will require NERC to interrogate the basis of the increase in terms of the operating cost, and the cost increase of the Enugu zone, as well as others. How can Lagos be cheaper than Enugu. NERC has not been able to interrogate the assumption.”

He further said that, “The Tariffs should come with power supply. Essentially, what we are witnessing is obvious darkness, especially those of us in the southeast, it has become an abysmal situation. “The tariff increase should reflect reality, there is neither power supply, and the assessment of the cost is high, the operating cost as assumed is completely abnormal”

The Lawmaker who represents Aninri/Agwu/Oji-use federal constituency of Enugu state disclosed that the House will interrogate the situation to ensure that there is due diligence in the increment of tariffs. He also accused the Enugu electricity company of refusing to connect communities to the national grid, despite individuals and communities buying electricity transformers.

“The house will intervene to ensure that there is due diligence, the basis of the increase will need to be interrogated. “So we will like to do some due diligence, and it is our legitimate responsibility as a parliament, particularly the committee on power. We will ask them to find out how they arrived at that cost. so that Nigerians are not burdened unduly. There should be a correlation between the cost and what you get.

“Dramatic increment does not go down well with our constituents, who are already suffering. Some communities have not had light for close to two years. And we do not understand the basis of the operating cost, and how they arrived at the tariff in the southeast, because we have improved network of electricity lines to communities, we have transformers that have been attracted and installed by the communities, and yet the Discos have refused to commission them. They are not supplying power to the rural communities, this is supposed to be their responsibilities, to improve the network, the grids but they are not doing that.

“There is a plethora of transformers littered all over the southeast, that is not commissioned. So they are not operating at a cost that is expensive because they are not improving the network. So where are they getting the cost?”

He added that, “The increase in the southeast is a symptom of dysfunction, a structural dysfunction in the management of the company. There is a defect that has to be seriously cured. people are livid with the attitude of the company.”

Mr. Okechukwu also faulted the privatization process of the Distribution companies, noting that the government should review the concession in terms of performance.

“Nigerians are hurting, you know my view on the concessions, there is lack of due diligence, there has not been any investment in the sector, the operating environment is not healthy, I am a student of public policy, there is what is called policy circles, you initiate a policy, you implement , you monitor it, you evaluate, and you review.

“Therefore, in doing the review, you will find out what has worked, what has not worked, so, we are not trying to catch a thief, we are trying to find a solution, not just the legislative arm, government as a body should be interested in finding out why this is not working, if its requires reviewing the relationship between the discos and the federal government, that would be auspicious.

“What we are interested in, is making things work. The concession is not an absolute concession, the FG has 40% of the shares in the discos, it is not an absolute concession. The FG is part owner of the discos, and if you are part owner, you can question why it is not working. It is not out of place to do that.”

Also echoing the issue raised by Okechukwu, Kunle Kola Olubiyo, the President, Nigeria Customer Protection Network said that the increments are as a result of non-performance by the regulatory authorities. He explained that there has not been a minor review of tariffs in the past 3 years as a result of dereliction of duty by the authority.

“Naturally, there is the multi-year review tariff order, which gives Nigeria Electricity Regulation Commission the powers to review every 6 months. That is a minor review, aside from that, there ought to be a major review every 5 years. In 2014, there was a 45% review, now in 2016, there was another hike in tariff, of about 45 to 47%.

“Between 2016- to date, which is about 3 years, there has not been any minor review, that is 6 reviews that have not been done. And consumers should not bear the brunt of the dereliction of duties on the part of the regulators, nobody tied their hands to their backs. Bringing 6 reviews retrospectively into one and lumping them together, it is going to be hard.

He added that, “Even with the 3 tariffs we have had, it has not translated to improvement in power availability. It’s like the government wants to continue to support inefficiency. “The public should be made to own this thing, we are not saying that it should be private-sector driven. The federal government should stop putting money in the distribution sub-sector.

“If we want to move forward, the discos should have their equity listed on the stock market, and 70% should be subscribed to through the initial public offer by the public.”

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