Nigerian Senate seeks reversal of electricity tariff

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The Nigerian Senate has urged the country’s Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Ministry of power and the distribution companies (DISCOS) to suspend implementation of the 40% increase in electricity tariff and revert to the original bill charged consumers.

The Senate also directed its committee on employment, labour and productivity, as well as power, to call for public hearing of all stakeholders, including the organised labour with the aim of re-examining the matter to be able to arrive at a logical conclusion such that Nigerians are not short changed.

These were some of the resolutions of the Senate at its resumed plenary, after two weeks break to consider the 2016 appropriation bill. The resolutions followed a motion on the urgent need to stop the increase in electricity tariff by the power ministry, NERC and the electricity distribution companies- DISCOS.

Public Importance

The motion sponsored by Senator Suleiman Nazif representing Bauchi north senatorial district, came as a point of order on matter of urgent public importance immediately after an Executive session by the lawmakers.

In his lead debate, Senator Nazif noted that due process to the extant laws for such increase which took effect on February 1st is not in consonance with section 76 of the power sector reforms Act 2005.

He also expressed worry that the increase will have a multiplier effect on the Nigerian economy with manufacturing companies having to pay more for electricity. Senator Nazif believes there was no basis for the hike in tariff.

“ we cannot differentiate today between NEPA, PHCN & the DISCOS now because at the end of the day the whole thing is just changing of name but it means the same business, paying for what you don’t have. ”

Senator Dino Melaye argued that there was no negotiation with the relevant stakeholders.

“There was no negotiation with the National Assembly, there was no negotiation with the Nigerian Labour, this increase was arbitrarily done.”

Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremmadu who also contributed to the debate, urged the Nigeria electricity regulatory commission to help protect the consumers, arguing that the issue of reviewing the law setting up the agency is not necessary for now.

The Senate thereafter adjourned plenary until Tuesday February 23, to enable all committees continue their assignment on the budget defence of MDAs.

In another development the Senate expressed anger at Senator Kabiru Marafa who granted an interview to the Punch Newspapers on 7th February, 2016 which was considered as an affront on the integrity of the Senate.

Moving the motion under Petitions by Senator Isa Hamma Misau (APC) representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District, he submitted that Senator Kabiru Marafa did grant an interview to the Punch Newspapers where he told lies and mislead the public, a situation he said he got over 500 calls from his constituents who inquired to know the veracity of the interview.

“Mr Senate President, it will interest you to know that Senator Kabiru Marafa granted a media interview to Punch Newspapers and he told lies thereby misleading the public, besides, I got over 500 calls from my people who want to know what happened,” he said.

He urged the Senate not to allow the likes of Senator Marafa to disrupt the Senate for selfish reasons while tasking his colleagues to rise to the occasion of treating the issue before it goes out of hand.

“Senate President, I want to task all of us to rise to the challenge of handling the issue before it goes off hand. We should not allow an individual to bring this distinguished Senate down. I suffered for 10 years contesting for Senate before I eventually succeeded in 2015.”

Corroborating the move, Senator Matthew Urhoghide maintained that he had suffered shame and his reputation as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was at stake owing to Senator Kabiru Marafa’s interview which suggests that the 8th Senate had nothing to offer.

He said he was inundated with calls from his constituents on the matter, but he was unable to explain explicitly what transpired, a situation he said could affect his future chances of winning election despite the fact that it took him over 20 years contesting for Senatorial seat.

“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I want to support what my friend has said concerning the issue which should be nipped in the bud. My phone has been inundated with calls and I don’t even know what to tell them. Besides, Misau said he struggled to get to the Senate in the last ten years, my own was in the last 20 years”, Urhoghide maintained.

Responding to the motion, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki referred the matter to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions and ordered that the report be reverted to the Committee of the whole in two weeks time.

“This is not new to the Senate on issues of this nature, and I therefore refer it to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions so that they can report back in two weeks time,” the Senate President said.