Senate to NERC: Halt electricity tariff hike

By The Citizen

The Senate yesterday told the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to stop the 45 per cent tariff increase being implemented by electricity distribution companies.

This followed a deadlock in discussions between the Senate leadership on the one hand and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola and his counterpart in the Labour and Employment ministry, Dr. Chris Ngige.

The position of the Senate is however being contested by the two ministers who have accepted the increase.

It was gathered on Tuesday that the upper legislative chamber had asked the NERC to maintain the status quo, depending on the outcome of further deliberations with the ministers.

The motion to suspend the implementation of the new tariff was moved by Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC, Bauchi).

He argued that considering current economic realities, it was unrealistic to increase electricity tariffs.

Supporting the motion, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said Nigerians were already on life support and urged his colleagues to reject the new increment and stand with Nigerians.

Also, Senator Albert Bassey supported the suspension of the increase. 'I want to join the Labour unions in protest. This Senate must take a stand to protect the interest of Nigerians. How can anyone increase the tariff when things are high? Why will a government agency do that? We need to be firm', Bassey said.

Senator Dino Melaye urged lawmakers to look beyond the suspension of the new tariff regime.

He said there was need to call on electricity generation and distribution companies to pay back loans they obtained from the Federal Government to get meters for their customers.

Malaye said: 'This increase makes it the fourth time that electricity tariffs will be up after the privatisation of the power sector. Their excuse has always been that they want to improve on the electricity. There was a time that the government gave loans to distribution and generation companies to buy metres and give to customers. They are yet to pay back that loan.

'We need to take a stand and mandate the government to reduce the tariffs. There was no negotiation with the Senate or the Labour. They arbitrarily increased the tariffs and expect us not to talk.'

Saraki mandated the committees on Labour and Power to meet with agencies of government to find a lasting solution after public hearings on the matter.

Saraki said: 'NERC should forthwith suspend the implementation of the new tariff. I believe that when we have a public hearing, these issues will be addressed. Until then, the new regime stands suspended'. The Nation.