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Nigerian Government Faces Backlash Over 230% Electricity Tariff Hike As Falana Threatens Legal Action

Femi Falana says the Nigerian government is burdening consumers for the power sector’s inefficiency.

Renowned human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, on Sunday threatened to approach the courts over the recent increase in tariffs for premium electricity consumers in the country by over 230 percent.

Speaking on Channels Television on Sunday night, the senior lawyer stated that  the plan of the federal government through the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) is to extend the electricity tariff hike beyond ‘Band A’ consumers to other Nigerians categorised under other bands.

Falana handed down the threat, even as NERC urged Nigerians to report any form of over-billing or unjustified band swap by the Distribution Companies (Discos)  to the power sector regulator.

Falana argued that the increase by the government, which has constituted a burden to consumers, cannot be justified under the Electricity Act, 2023, vowing to seek redress for Nigerians in the court.

He maintained that the federal government had already removed electricity subsidy in 2022, explaining that by enforcing a new tariff regime, the authorities were making Nigerians pay for the inefficiency and profligacy of those managing the electricity sector.

On April 3, 2024 NERC announced the rise in electricity tariff for customers enjoying 20 hours power supply daily, explaining that only 15 percent of over 12 million such customers fall in this category.

The implication of the increase is that customers in band A will henceforth pay N225 kilowatt per hour from the current N68 they paid hitherto.

But Falana declared electricity subsidy as non-existent, and alleged that the government was trying to raise funds for cash-strapped Discos.

“Under that law, there are certain steps to take and we are going to embark on those steps tomorrow (Monday) which is to raise serious objections with respect to the impunity that has characterised the recent increase.

“At the appropriate time if there is no response, we will have to go to court because the government had warned, the minister had warned that the increase this time around will only fetch the government or the discos N1.6 trillion,  whereas the destination is N3 trillion.

“So, the poor people that the minister is talking about, the other bands, very soon, the government is going to extend the increases to them so that the N1.4 trillion the minister is talking about will be recovered.

“They are increasing tariff to assist the cash-strapped Discos, majority of which have now been taken over by the banks and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), and the banks and AMCON has no competence to run electricity companies,” the lawyer added.

He knocked the government for being insensitive to the plight of Nigerians who are still grappling with the economical impact of petrol subsidy removal and the collapse of the foreign exchange windows.

In a separate statement, Falana quoted a former Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed as saying that the government had removed subsidy.

He said that to the utter dismay of Nigerians, the Minister of Power, Mr. Adebayo Adelabu claimed on January 15, 2024 that, “the federal government still subsidises electricity …”

“Since the Muhammadu Buhari administration had stopped electricity subsidy in 2022, the federal government should institute a panel of inquiry to investigate the claim of the Minister of Power, Adelabu that electricity subsidy for 2024 is N3 trillion.

“The inquiry is necessary as arrangements have been concluded by the NERC to further hike electricity tariffs under the pretext of removing subsidy from the sector. The panel should also inquire into the diversion of the N32 billion paid into the account of a private company account in 2003 for the supply of three million prepaid metres in the country,” he stated.

Meanwhile, NERC in a :“Revised Electricity Tariffs: What You Should do” note on Sunday, urged customers who feel unfairly treated to report to the industry regulator.

NERC advised Nigerians to visit their Discos’ website to see if they are affected by the tariff change, stressing that they can check the revised list of Band A customers (reduced from over 1,000 feeders to about 480) or use their account number to check their band.

“If you are a Band A customer, your Disco is expected to provide you with at least 20 hours of electricity daily. It is your right to receive that minimum hours of power daily. Monitor it. Report it. Report quality of service delivery to NERC so appropriate action can be instituted against the erring Disco.

“If you are a Band B – E customer under the new tariff regime and you are overcharged for electricity tokens, report immediately. The government is still subsidising your electricity at the old rates.

“All Discos have been ordered by NERC to refund all erroneous deductions from customers not in the revised Band A latest April 12, 2024,” the power sector regulator stated.

Emmanuel Addeh

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