Lagos Federal High Court, presided over by Justice Mohammed Idris, on Monday, dismissed the application by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, seeking a further stay of proceedings in the suit over the tangoed-hike in electricity tariff instituted by a lawyer, Toluwani Yemi Adebiyi.
NERC, in the application is urging the court to stay proceedings until its appeal against two previous rulings delivered by the judge is heard and determined by the Appeal Court.
Justice Idris had in one of the rulings barred NERC from implementing any upward review in electricity tariff pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
The other ruling has to do with the dismissal of NERC’s preliminary objections to the suit.
While dismissing the application for stay of proceedings for lacking of merit, Idris held that contrary to the claims of the applicant, there are no indications that the appeal has been listed for hearing at the Appeal Court.
“In the circumstance, this court cannot grant a stay of proceedings on an incompetent appeal which is awaiting regularisation at the Appeal Court.”
The judge therefore awarded the cost of N10, 000 in favour of the plaintiff.
After the ruling, there were arguments among parties in the matter as to which application should be taken by the court.
The plaintiff, Toluwani Yemi Adebiyi, in his submissions, insisted that the ruling of the court has cleared the way for the hearing of his motion for contempt.
However, defendants’ lawyers insisted that the court should hear the substantive matter.
According to them, the plaintiff has not met any of the conditions prescribed by the law for his contempt charge to be heard by the court.
In a short ruling on the matter, Justice Idris held that even though contempt charge affects the integrity of the court, it will be in the interest of justice if all applications challenging the contempt proceedings are heard first.
NERC’s lawyer, Anthony Idigbe, SAN, then moved his application challenging the filing of Forms 48 and 49 by the plaintiff.
He urged the court to dismiss the application for not following due process of law.
The plaintiff, however, urged the court to dismiss all objections to the contempt charge and commit the NERC Chairman and the CEOs of the Distribution Companies, Discos to prison for desecrating the judiciary.
He said the action of the alleged contemnors is highly condemnable and should not go unpunished.
After listening to the arguments of parties, Justice Idris adjourned till February 29, for ruling on the application challenging the contempt charge.
Adebiyi, in the substantive suit, is seeking an order restraining NERC from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff without a
meaningful and significant improvement in power supply at least for 18 hours a day in most communities in Nigeria.
He also wants an order restraining NERC from foisting compulsory
service charge on pre-paid meters until “the meters are designed to read charges per second of consumption and not flat rate of service not rendered or power not used.”
He also wants the service charge on pre-paid meters not to be enforced until there is visible, efficient and reliable power supply like those of foreign countries where the idea of service charge was borrowed.
Adebiyi is further asking for an order of court mandating the NERC to do the needful and generate more power to meet the electricity use of Nigerians, adding that the needful should include and not limited to a multiple long-term financing approach, sourced from the banks, capital market, insurance and other sectors of finance to power the sector.
The lawyer is asking the court to mandate the NERC to make available to all Nigerians within a reasonable time of maximum of two years, prepaid meters as a way to stop the throat-cutting indiscriminate estimated bill and which must be devoid of the arbitrary service charge, but only chargeable on power consumed.
In an affidavit in support of the suit personally deposed to by the
applicant, the lawyer lamented that despite the motto and mission of
NERC which were expressly stated as “keeping the light on and to meet the needs of Nigeria for safe, adequate, reliable and affordable electricity,” most communities in Nigeria do not get more than 30 minutes of electricity supply, while the remaining 23 hours and 30 minutes are always without light and in total darkness.
“Nigeria poor masses are paying an estimated and indiscriminate
residential bills ranging from N5, 000 to N18, 000, spending an
average of N15, 000 to N20, 000 for fuel to maintain generating set.
“Businesses have collapsed, industries have closed down, and residents cannot sleep comfortably at night due to inefficiency of our power industry.
“Companies and commercial houses are groaning under throat-cutting power bill which they are paying for, yet not getting the benefit for such payment,” Adebiyi stated.

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