Electricity Tariff Hike And Plight Of Nigerians

R ecently, electricity consumers in Nigeria have united in their opposition against a recent attempt by the federal government to increase electricity tariff. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had issued an order signed by the new chairman, Sanusi Garba and one of its commissioners, Dafe Akpeneye, instructing distribution companies (DisCos) to increase electricity tariffs effective January 1, 2021 by 50 per cent. But, widespread condemnation by many Nigerians, stakeholders and sectoral leaders who expressed resentment at the ill-timed tariff hike, have trailed the hike, coming at a time Nigerians are facing a lot of economic challenges, with many not able to boast of a regular supply of the basic necessity of contemporary life, and others groaning under the weight of estimated billing. Nigerians have not only seen any increment in electricity tariff as ill-timed, but also as an attempt to push Nigerians to the wall, another strategy to tax Nigerians, etc, describing the policy as inhuman, insensitive, fearing that the policies would push Nigerians further into poverty, insecurity and impoverishment, thereby making life more difficult and intolerable for the masses. Electricity tariff hike in Nigeria is one too many, without an improvement in electricity supply in most areas. The NERC had increased electricity tariff from N30.23 per one kWh to N62.33, effective September 1, 2020. Consequently, DisCos announced the implementation of a new Service Reflective Tariff Plan (SRT) across their franchise areas from September 1, 2020, categorising their customers into five bands with Band D and E not enjoying 12 hours power supply and not affected by the new tariff plan. But, electricity consumers had claimed that the electricity DisCos were not adhering to the terms of the new tariff regime they were implementing, describing the tariff as being exploitative. They also alleged that the categorisation was shrouded in secrecy even as power supply drastically dropped since the increment took effect, and accused DisCos of failing to implement the capping on the estimated billing method. However, after much uproar, against the January 1, 2021 hike, NERC spokesman Michael Faloseyi, refuted the reported increment in a statement stating that no approval was granted for 50 per cent tariff increase in the tariff order for DisCos. Reacting, the minister of power, Saleh Mamman, directed the NERC to inform all DISCOs to revert to tariffs that were applicable in December 2020, to promote a constructive conclusion of the dialogue with the Labour Centres (through the Joint Ad-Hoc Committee). Mamman described reports of electricity tariff increase by 50 per cent as inaccurate and false, saying government continues to fully subsidise 55 per cent of on-grid consumers in bands D and E and maintains the lifeline tariff for the poor and underprivileged. The measures, he said, all aimed at cushioning the effects of the pandemic while providing more targeted interventions for citizens. Nigerians are already feeling the weight of the increase in the cost of virtually everything that makes life worth living, from foodstuff to transport fares, building materials, petrol, indiscriminate bank charges, Medicare, house rent, data bill, even sachet water, due to the nation's economic downturn. Therefore, the federal government should avoid policies that could further impoverish or increase the hardship the masses are already passing through. What Nigerians want is for the Federal Government to initiate programmes to cushion the effect of the outrageous increment in the prices of these commodities that have direct impact on the lives of the average Nigerian and retain the confidence of the masses. Above all, they want supply of pre-paid meters and regular, if not constant electricity supply, to make up for the huge electricity tariff and estimated billing they were already paying and not huge taxes for amenity not supplied. 

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