The leadership of the National Assembly has got a six-month reprieve for Nigerians on the planned hike of electricity tariff that would have kicked in on Wednesday (tomorrow).
The leaders of the two Chambers were able to convince the Distribution Companies (DISCOs) in the country to defer the hike in electricity tariffs scheduled to take effect from July 1, 2020, according to a statement on Monday by the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media, Ola Awoniyi.
Nigerians, reeling from the Economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, have been strongly opposed to the hike, but the DISCOs were determined to go ahead with their plan.
Awoniyi in the statement revealed that the lawmakers met with the Chief Executives of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the DISCOs and succeeded in persuading them to postpone the planned increase of tariffs until the first quarter of 2021.
According the statement, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, as well as other principal officers and chairmen of the Committees on Power of the two chambers, attended the meeting.
He said that the National Assembly leaders were emphatic that the timing of the planned hike was wrong, although they do not have issues with the need to introduce cost-reflective tariffs for the power sector to attract the much-needed investment.
‘The DISCOs, on their part, admitted that they were not well prepared for the planned hike in tariffs despite the so much desire for the increase, ” it was further disclosed in the statement.
Awoniyi said the meeting agreed to defer the planned hike until the first quarter of next year.
The leadership of the National Assembly promised to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue, he furthers aid.
He quoted the Senate President as saying, “The agreement here is that there is not going to be any 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.”
The Senate President stated that the Federal Government has been doing a lot as part of its obligations to provide some form of intervention.
He noted that over N600 billion was earmarked to improve the power sector, stressing that the potential increase in the tariffs would be of concern to 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,” the lawmaker pleaded.
In his remarks, Gbajabiamila said the National Assembly was on the same page with the DISCOs on the issue of cost-reflective tariffs.
He, however, stated that there was time for everything, and a well-intended programme or policy of government could fall flat on the face and never recover if such was implemented at the wrong time.
“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 Speaker said.
He asked the DISCOs and NERC how they arrived at the tariffs, the role of the National Assembly, and if the President was aware of their decision.
Gbajabiamila added, “Whatever will affect his (Buhari’s) 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.”
On their part, the DISCOs representatives told the lawmakers that if the planned hike was 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.
Those in attendance included representatives of NERC, Kano Electricity Distribution Company, Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company, and Eko Electricity Distribution Company.