Parliamentary Oversight: A New Dawn In The Power Sector
A new day has dawned for millions of Nigerian electricity consumers as the the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has directed Power Generation and Distribution Companies (GENCOs and DISCOs) to abolish the age long practices of fixed electricity charges and bulk billing of residential communities.
Based on the Senate’s recent investigation into the power sector, NERC had through an official communication from its Chairman and Chief Executive, Dr. Sam Amadi, on Monday 17th August, 2015 said: ‘Consumers who do not receive power supply will henceforth be exempted from paying fixed charges’ as ‘power distribution companies have come into consensus to review fixed charge policy’.
Although Amadi argued that the billing method was a standard global practice, he agreed with the peculiarities of the Nigeria situation owing to the problem of Nigeria’s poor electricity generation capacity – that often leads to consumers paying fixed charges for epileptic or absolutely no power supply.
The NERC ruling was brought about after the 8th Senate resumed to begin its legislative and oversight functions after a turbulent leadership selection process. A Tuesday, 11 August, 2015 Motion on the Floor of the Senate on the Unfair Trade Practices of Electricity Distribution Companies in Nigeria, which was moved by Senators Sam Egwu and David Umaru of Ebonyi and Niger state’s respectively, challenged the effects that DISCOS were having on hardworking Nigerians. This resolution further prompted the 8th Senate to decide to probe the various projects and funding for the power sector since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.
Moving forward, NERC’s directive will put an end to the unfair profiteering of the power sector at the expense of its customers. As power remains a major determinant for economic growth, if Nigeria is to experience sustained economic growth, it needs to take more proactive steps to ensure that the power sector receives critical and effective attention.
As an astute student of legislative politics, I believe that for once, Nigerians must commend the role played by the occupiers of the Red Chambers of the Nigerian National Assembly as ably led by the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki. In the past, Nigeria’s legislature has acted in a manner removed from Nigerians. As it stands, with Dr. Saraki at the helm of its affairs, the Upper Legislative Chamber seems to now understand how average Nigerians suffer at the mercy of unfair business practices and regulations.
Following this well-deserved victory, the leadership of the 8th Senate has also promised that if there are similar situations where innocent hardworking Nigerians are being ripped off, it should be brought to the knowledge of our senators and representatives.
Dr. Saraki, in a series of tweets on Friday morning, mentioned that the recent NERC ruling should serve as a call to action to the Senate to try to do more – pursuant to its oversight functions. It is my hope that Nigerians would see this as an opportunity to begin reaching out to ensure that many of the other distorted policies and practices that have been used to cage us in the past, are carefully inspected to bring about the change that we voted for in the last election cycle.
-‘Demola Adeyeye loves the Legislature. He tweets via @AAAdeyeye