By Shorunke Tunde
The Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has said that the proposed tariff increase that has been suspended will not affect poor electricity customers when it takes effect.
In his presentation to the Senate Committee on Power at the commission’s head office in Abuja on Monday, the NERC chairman, Prof. James Momoh told the lawmakers who were in their oversight function that a mechanism has been put in place to absorb the adverse impacts of the hike on the masses.
Speaking with reporters after the event, he said “It is not going to affect the poor. We will make sure that the downtrodden and the people you feel for at the moment will not be affected by any increase we will be bringing forth.
“It will be based on the hours of service and the quality of power available there. We don’t want the poor to subsidize the payment of the rich. In other words, we must make sure that the poor are not sacrificed in the process of tariff increase.”
Meanwhile, the committee chairman, Senator Gabriel Suswan has urged the commission to handle the tariff increase with caution because of the economic hardship it could inflict on the people.
He told Momoh the Senate is opposed to the proposed increase in tariff because having viewed that most Nigerians cannot even feed themselves at the moment owing to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission has “to make haste slowly” about the tariff.
Explaining what “to make haste slowly” meant, the lawmaker said the NERC has reviewed the tariff but the economy has contracted by over 2 percent due to COVID.
“By their own Programme, they (NERC) is supposed to activated tariff increase by 1st of July.
“We met with them at the level of National Assembly and appealed that given the circumstances of the COVID they should tally awhile, let Nigerians recover from the economic shocks before they can activate that tariff.”
According to him, the commission suspended the hike because of the pleas of the Senate. He insists that the suspension of the hike does not rule out its eventual increase.
Suswan said the liquidity of the sector depends on a cost-reflective tariff.
The lawmaker said the commission is presently supporting the National Assembly for the enactment of the Electricity Act since the one in force at the moment was pre-privatization of the sector.
The new bill, said the committee chairman, is expected to be presented to the National Assembly before August this year.
The lawmaker said “these have gone beyond privatization. There has to be an electricity act that will set the framework that touches on energy theft: how people will be sanctioned. It gives potential investors the comfort to come here and invest knowing that a legal framework protects them. NERC is supporting us financially to put that act together. By August we should be able to put that act before the National Assembly.”