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Lagos court orders NERC to back down from electricity tariff increase

A FEDERAL High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday ordered electricity distribution companies to maintain current prices until the resolution of the motion challenging the proposed tariff increase.

The presiding judge, Justice Muslim Hassan gave the order in a suit initiated by the Incorporated Trustees of Human Rights Foundation against 15 respondents in the electricity industry.

The rights group had filed an ex parte motion praying the court to stop the proposed over 40 per cent increase in electricity tariff.

Respondents involved in the suit include Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company Plc and the Minister of Power.

Also joined as respondents are Abuja, Benin, Enugu, Ikeja, Kaduna, Kano, Port Harcourt, Yola, Eko, Ibadan and Jos electricity distribution companies.

The electricity regulatory commission had announced on its website in December 2019 that the current electricity tariffs being paid by consumers would increase in April until a complete transition to a cost-reflective tariff in 2021

It projected that the adjustments in the tariff would be based on the relevant data the commission obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, such as average monthly inflation rate of 11.3 per cent and the exchange rate of N309.97.

The group disputed that “the implementation of the purported minor review of the Multi-Year Tariff Order will create unquantifiable hardship and damages on the Nigerian electricity consumers.

“Consumers will be made to pay very high tariff, which has been increased by over 40 per cent across the board of which is currently being billed.”

In an affidavit deposed to by Theodora Ubabunike, a lawyer, the human rights group said, “It will amount to a great injustice to impose arbitrary electricity tariff on Nigerian electricity consumers.

“Nigerians will suffer monumental loss as many people will not be able to access power or access the same at very high tariff. I know that Nigerians are entitled to access public amenities like electrical power,” the group stated.

The applicant’s counsel, Anaje Chinedu, prayed for “an order of interim injunction restraining NERC from taking any step towards the implementation of the purported Minor Review of the Multi-Year Tariff Order 2015 and the Remittance Order 2019,” pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed by the group.

Justice Hassan declined to grant the ex parte application but ordered the parties to maintain the status quo.

“The status quo antebellum shall be maintained by the parties in this suit pending the determination of the motion on notice,” he said.

Justice Hassan fixed January 20 for hearing.

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