Determined to forestall a lingering industrial crisis in the country, the federal government has scheduled a crucial conciliatory meeting with the critical stakeholder in the power sector, including the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Electricity Distribution Companies, Discos, and the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC with the view to resolving their differences over the new electricity tariff, which begun from February 1, 2015.
Nigeria Pilot learnt that the federal government meeting is to forestall NLC’s move to mobilise its members on the streets to register their displeasure over the new electricity tariff today.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who is leading the meeting has expressed worry that any industrial crisis at the moment could further result in more hardship for Nigerians, and appealed to the labour leaders and other stakeholders to come to the meeting with patriotic spirit for a fruitful a dialogue on the issues with the view to finding lasting solutions that will be acceptable to the two parties.
“We received their letter and have invited them for discussions. The meeting will also be attended by stakeholders in the industry, including Electricity Distribution Companies and Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission,” the Minister said, while defending the ministry’s budget before the National Assembly joint committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity in Abuja.
Justifying the Ministry’s 2016 budget proposal, Ngige stated that the ministry is ready and wholly committed to tackle the challenges of unemployment, using well thought out programmes, cardinal among them which are the Graduate Teachers Conversion, Skills Acquisition Programmes and Conditional Cash Transfer.
In his words: “The programmes of the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari are focused towards employment generation. To this end, there is a change in our 2016 budget from what it used to be in the past. This year, we want to tackle unemployment and we will tackle it from all facets, using programmes such as the Graduate Conversion Scheme and Vocational Skill Acquisition programme among others, to ensure that our young ones are empowered for self-sustenance”.
In his remarks, the Chairman Senate Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity, Senator Suleiman Nazif, assured the ministry that the committee will take a holistic look at the proposed budget, mindful of the critical responsibilities of the ministry in the fight against unemployment.
According to him, “We will go back and study your budget proposal. You can be assured that Nigerians will be proud of the outcome. I want to state that with Ngige at the helm of affairs in the ministry, we are sure that there are better days ahead.”
Speaking further, Senator Nazif stated that the Ministry of Labour and Employment requires a lot of money, being one of the major drivers of the cardinal programmes of the present administration, adding that his committee will take its oversight functions seriously after the passage of the budget, to ensure effective utilization of funds appropriated.
Similarly, a member of the committee, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, affirmed that given the enormous responsibilities before the ministry, it has become imperative to adequately fund its activities, saying the present budget proposal appears to be inadequate for employment generation.
Lawyer slams NERC, Discos CEOs with contempt proceedings
Meanwhile, A Lagos based-lawyer and rights activist, Toluwani Yemi Adebiyi, has instituted a contempt proceedings suit against the Chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, and the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of all Electricity Distribution Companies, Discos across the country over the implementation of the new electricity tariff despite a subsisting court order halting same.
Justice Mohammed Idris of a Lagos Federal High Court, had on May 28, 2015, directed NERC to suspend all actions relating to any increment in electricity tariff pending the hearing and final determination of a suit filed by the lawyer on the issue.
However, despite the subsisting court’s order, NERC in conjunction with the Electricity Distribution Companies commenced the implementation of the new electricity tariff on February 1, 2016.
Already, copies of Form 48 which is a notice of consequence of disobedience of court’s order have been served on the alleged contemnors.
The application is expected to be heard on Thursday by Justice Idris.
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 in a day in most communities in Nigeria.
He also wants an order restraining NERC from foisting compulsory service charge on pre-paid meters not until “the meters are designed to read charges per second of consumption and not a 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.
Finally, 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 if electricity supply, while the remaining 23 hours and 30 minutes were 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,” Adebiyi stated.