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Electricity tariff hike: Buhari supports suspension of plan – NASS leadership

President Muhammadu Buhari has agreed to suggestions by National Assembly leadership to prevail on electricity distribution companies in the country to suspend their planned electricity tariff price hike.

The the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had announced that the the new price regime for electricity consumers would take off from Wednesday, July 1, 2020.

However, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Pawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, held separate meetings with President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), in the State House on Tuesday on the matter.

The leaders of the federal legislature said they met with the President to make him consider the time factor in the price hike plan, adding that both the President and the Vice President listened and reasoned along the same line with them on the need to suspend the plan for now.

It would be recalled that the National Assembly had intervened in the matter on Monday and had suggested that the plan be kept on hold for the time being.

According to Gbajabiamila, both President Buhari and Osinbajo were on the same page with the National Assembly leadership on the deferment of the hike given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the people.

“Let me just say that we saw the President earlier this morning and we have seen the Vice President today. The whole idea is that when there is a major policy decision, it is always good that the legislature and the executive are on the same page so that we don’t sing different tunes.

“I will like to say that I think we have all agreed on an increase in cost reflective tariff but the issue is that the timing is also important. Sometimes, timing is more important than even the policy decision that you make.

“There is a saying that the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. So the intentions is good but what about the timing?

“We have all agreed to suspend this for a while, tarry a while and get the buy-in of the people, explain to the people why this has to be done, that it is for the betterment for the electricity to get stable.

“They (DisCos and GenCos) are businessmen and cannot be undercutting themselves.

“I think so far so good, the President listened attentively, the Vice President listened attentively and I think everybody is on the same page and hopefully, we will get some reprieve between now and whenever, but it’s not going to happen today”, he said.

Also speaking, the President of the Senator, Senator Lawan, affirmed that the villa meeting was in connection with the plan in electricity tariff hike, saying that time was not right for an increase.

He said necessary measures, including the provision of prepaid meters, must first be put in place before any hike can be made.

“The joint leadership of the National Assembly sat yesterday with DISCOS and Nigeria Regulatory Agency. We believe that this is not the right time to increase the tariff in the electricity sector. Nigerians have a lot of challenges today because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the situation requires that we do everything possible to make life easy for our citizens.

“Of course, government is doing a lot in this respect but we believe that DISCOS should meet with consumers, find better cost effective tariff. But before then, there must be some steps to ensure that the consumers are properly metered otherwise, you will still go back to guessing what consumers are consuming. That is to say that let the billing be scientifically based, it has to be based on what you actually consumed.

“So we had this discussion with Mr. Vice President and we are sure that that announcement in the increase of electricity tariff in Nigeria is untimely.

“We believe that we need to do more work to ensure that before any increase, there must be some measures, steps, line of actions that must be exhausted including the metering. This is a welcome idea to the Vice President as well.”

On how to achieve billing without overburdening Nigerians, he explained: “I believe that the share purchase agreement signed by the government and the DISCOS at the point of the privatization must be adhered to. These are businesses and they must do everything possible to provide services. It is when they provide efficient and effective services to consumers that they can make money.

“But as a government, we too must make sure that we discharge our obligations as provided for in share purchase agreement signed. Once we are able to achieve that, we will have a better situation in the power sector in Nigeria. It is doable, it has happened elsewhere.

“So, we cannot continue to give DISCOS and GENCOS the resources that we can ordinarily deploy to build hospitals. But whatever it’s necessary for us to do as part of our agreement with them we must do those”, he said.

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