Court renews order stopping hike in electricity tariff

Power stationA JUDGE of the Federal High Court, Lagos, Justice Mohammed Idris, has renewed an earlier order restraining the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) from implementing the new electricity tariff billed to be effective from June 1, 2015.

The judge had in a ruling on an ex-parte application filed by a Lagos lawyer, Toluwani Yemi Adebiyi, restrained NERC and the electricity distribution companies from effecting any increment in electricity tariff pending the hearing and determination of the suit.

When the matter came up yesterday, Adebiyi told the court that as directed, all the processes in the matter, including the enrolled order of court, had been served on the NERC.

Adebiyi, who added that by the provisions of the rules of court, NERC had seven days to respond, but that the commission was yet to do so, said in as much as he would love to proceed, it would be fair to give the commission benefit of the doubt.

He, however, urged the court to renew the order so as to preserve the subject matter of the suit.

He said: “My Lord, everybody is affected. Even this court is running on generator. There is a need to stop them from increasing the electricity tariff because Nigerians can’t afford such and there is no justification for such increment.”

In response, a legal officer with the NERC, Ifeanyi Umunna, said the commission had complied with the interim orders of court, adding that the NERC was in the process of appointing a counsel to defend the suit, and pleaded for more time to do so.

Justice Idris, in his short ruling, held that “the ex-parte order remains valid and subsisting.”

The matter was thereafter adjourned to July 9, 2015 for hearing.

Adebiyi, in the suit, is seeking an order restraining the NERC from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff without a meaningful and significant improvement in power supply at least for 18 hours in a day in most communities in Nigeria.

He also wants an order restraining NERC from foisting compulsory service charge on pre-paid meters’ users until “the meters are designed to read charges per second of consumption and not a flat rate of service not rendered or power not used.”

He also wants the service charge on pre-paid meters not to be enforced until there is efficient and reliable power supply like those of foreign countries where the idea of service charge was borrowed.

Adebiyi is further asking for an order of court mandating the NERC to do the needful and generate more power to meet the electricity use of Nigerians, adding that the needful should include and not limited to a multiple long-term financing approach, sourced from the banks, capital market, insurance and other sectors of finance to power the sector.

The applicant is also asking the court to mandate the NERC to make available to all Nigerians within a reasonable time of maximum of two years pre-paid meters as a way to stop the throat-cutting indiscriminate estimated bill and which must be devoid of the arbitrary service charge, but only chargeable on power consumed.

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