There are fears that the February 1, 2016 take-off of the new 45 percent Multi-Year Tariff Order, MYTO, electricity tariff increase in the country may be the last straw that will break the camel’s back of the already comatose economy. Observers had thought that the federal government should have put things right, especially in solving even if not all the complaints raised, such as provision of metres for consumers and cancellation of estimate billings ahead of the take-off date.
With the new tariff regime, electricity consumers under the R2 Class (residential) will payN24.30 per kilowatt in Abuja; Benin-N24.08; Enugu-N27.13; Ibadan -N23.09; Jos- N26.93; Kaduna – N27.36 and N28.05 (single phase and three phases); Kano – N20.26 and N26.41; Ikeja – N21.30 and N21.80; Port Harcourt –N24.91; Eko- N24.00 and 25.79; Yola –N23.25 and N24.75 per kilowatt accordingly.
Before the increase, R2 class in Abuja Electricity Distribution Company pay N702.00 fixed charge every month. It has been increased by N9.60kwh. Also, residential customers in Eko and Ikeja electricity distribution areas will no longer pay N750. 00 fixed charges. They now have N10kwh and N8kwh increase respectively in their energy charges. Kaduna and Benin that formerly pay N800.00 and N750.00 fixed charges have an increase of N11.05kwh and N9.26kwh respectively in their energy charges. For commercial consumers, C2 in Ibadan and Enugu will no longer pay fixed charges of N17, 010. 00 and N22, 141. 00 but will pay more by N12.08kwh and N13.35kwh respectively.
In his defense, the Acting Head at Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, Dr. Tony Akah, was quoted to have said that the tariffs took effect yesterday in the absence of any ‘subsisting judiciary order.’ “This new tariff which is based on realistic market price will improve the quality and quantity of electricity delivered to customers and provides a fair return on investment for the operators”, he added.
But the President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, Frank Udemba Jacob said, “We are shocked at the action of NERC and the distribution companies. We have a court injunction restraining them from any increase. We had prayed the court to ask NERC to revert to the previous Multi-Year Tariff Order, MYTO.This amounts to subjudice. We are going to brief our lawyers to take it up”.
More still, the contentions across the country have to do with the outcry that Nigerian consumers are being ripped off by DISCOS and GENCOS. They argue that it is not fair for them to be paying for electricity that is not available. Critics further accuse the federal government of putting the cart before the horse by doing the last thing first. Consumers say they are ready to pay more for electricity when they use them as obtainable in other climes but will not pay for darkness.
Labour Unions have also vehemently kicked against the arbitrary increase, accusing the federal government of having little or no respect for the rule of law. The Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, says it is a rip off and has also threatened to go on strike in protest. NLC President Comrade Ayuba Wabba said: “Congress considers as illegal, unfair, unjustifiable and a further exploitation of the already exploited Nigerians, the 45 per cent increase in electricity.”
We are worried by the discordant tunes trailing the MYTO and the inability of the government in tackling once and for all the problems associated with the power sector. Many Nigerians had thought that the recent privatization of the sector and its unbundling into DISCOS and GENTOS will solve the problems but that is not happening now.
Checks have since revealed that the power sector remains the conduit pipe for corrupt officials in successive administrations. For instance, the $15 billion dollars scam unearthed by Hon. Ndudi Elumelu House of Representative Investigative panel under former president Olusegun Obasanjo administration and the $182 million Halliburton scam among others where many powerful past leaders were believed to have been indicted remain instructive.
Those who suggested the privatization exercise had thought that the private sector will manage the power sector well, but Nigerians are yet to reap any benefit from the exercise. Experts have also blamed the problem on weak distribution lines described as old and unable to carry the generated kilowatts.
Surprisingly, the generating companies are crying, the distributing companies are also crying while Nigeria consumers are being bled to death. The question remains: Where did the country get it wrong?
It could be recalled that the country has failed to meet the target of 5,000mw set in 2008 under the MYTO. Critics say the problems of the power sector may have defied theories because of insincerity and entrenched selfish interests of government officials.
The answer may be found in the words of former Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji when he said, ”We have in the past, people claiming to bring in 15,000mw in 2007. Where is it? Is it realistic? Are we telling the people the right thing? This government owes Nigerians explanations on this note.