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Falana blasts Power Minister for his discordant tune after Reps’ call for suspension of tariff hike

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The House of Representatives has asked the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, to suspend the implementation of the new tariff.

But elsewhere in the National Assembly, this time in the Senate, the Minister of Power, Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, who has insistently pushed the tariff hike for weeks, has said the country will be thrown into total darkness in three months if the federal government does not implement the new hike.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on power on Monday, Adelabu said although citizens are bearing the brunt of the increase, it would “catapult us to the next level”.

But on Channels TV show on Monday night, Rights activist and lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) took the minister and the NERC to the cleaners.

His words: “The Minister of Power, Mr Adebayo Adelabu has failed to address the question of the illegality of the tariffs.

“Section 116 of the Electricity Act 2023 provides that before an increase can approved and announced, there has to be a public hearing conducted based on the request of the DISCOS to have an increase in the electricity tariffs. That was not done.

“Secondly, neither the minister nor the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has explained why the impunity that characterised the increase can be allowed.

“I have already given a notice to the commission because these guys are running Nigeria based on impunity and we can not continue like this. When a country claims to operate under the rule of law, all actions of the government, and all actions of individuals must comply with the provisions of relevant laws.

“Secondly, the increase was anchored on the directives of the commission that customers in Band A will have an uninterrupted electricity supply for at least 20 hours a day. That directive has been violated daily. So, on what basis can you justify the increase in the electricity tariffs….

“The Honourable Minister of Power is acting the script of the IMF and the World Bank.”

The call in the House of Representatives for tariff hike suspension was sequel to the adoption of a motion by Rep. Nkemkanma Kama (LP-Ebonyi) at plenary on Tuesday.

It would be recalled that NERC had one April 3, approved an increase in electricity tariff for customers who enjoyed 20 hours of electricity daily classified as Band A users.

Moving the motion, Kama said that the aim was to restore public trust, protect consumer rights, and ensure regulatory accountability in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry, NESI.

He said that facts presented showed that the approval granted by NERC resulted in a staggering 300 per cent rise for certain consumers.

“What is more concerning are the reports indicating discrepancies in customer categorisation and widespread complaints regarding inadequate service despite increased charges.

“This situation has not just sparked national anxiety, but it also threatens regulatory certainty and investor confidence in the sector, demanding immediate attention.

“This motion argues for legislative intervention, underlining our constitutional and moral obligations to address the crisis and alleviate the burden on Nigerian citizens.

“It places a strong emphasis on the legislative oversight role over NERC and the electricity utilities, stressing the need for fair and just pricing and consultation with stakeholders in tariff determination processes.

“This is not just a responsibility, but a duty we owe to our constituents,” he said.

The lawmaker alleged failure of due process in approving the tariff increase which raised concerns over discriminatory practices, and disputed nature of government subsidies to Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs.

Sequel to the adoption of the motion, the house ordered the Nigerian electricity regulatory commission, NERC, to suspend the operation of the recently announced tariff increases and other conditions in the newly issues review of the MYTO.

The House resolved to set up a special committee made up of the Committees on Power, Commerce and National Planning to convene a public hearing on price regulation.

The lawmaker resolved to appoint well-regarded former regulator as technical consultant to the house to develop templates for determination of the legality, reasonableness of the procedure adopted by NERC in approving the tariff increase and establishing the performance benchmarks for the Discos.

In his ruling, the Speaker of the house, Tajudeen Abbas said that the relevant committees should ensure compliance.

● Additional report by NAN

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