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Electricity tariff hike: A means of milking common man dry

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Ibrahim Quadri

 

Beginning from 3rd April, 2024, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) announced increase electricity tariffs. Subsequently, customers in Band A (receiving power supply for 20 hours or more) would have to pay about 230.9% more in tariffs from NGN68/kWh previously. With this hike, approximately 1,974,385 customers are expected to be affected according to NERC.

 

In his argument, the NERC Vice Chairman, Musiliu Oseni, explained  that the increase would not affect Bands B, C, D and E while noting that the number of customers previously on Band A has been reduced.

 

The official said the Band A consumers represent 15 per cent of the population but consume 40 per cent of the nation’s electricity, saying power distribution companies (DisCos) will be allowed to raise electricity prices to N225 ($0.15) per kilowatt-hour from N68.

 

“We currently have 800 feeders that are categorized as Band A feeders, but upon reviewing those feeders’ performance, the commission has now reduced it to under 500. This means that 17 per cent now qualify as Band A feeders. Those are the feeders that are currently meeting the average 20 hours average.

 

However, it is disheartening to state that despite this hike with a promise of steady power supply, the National Grid, which is the infrastructure that connects power generation stations to electrical loads throughout the country, collapsed again making it the seventh time in 2024. The latest collapse occurred around 2:42 am on Monday 15th April, with generation dropping to 64.70 megawatts.

 

Confirming the collapse in a statement, Jos DisCo said: “The current outage being experienced within our franchise States is a result of loss of power supply from the national grid. The loss of power supply from the national grid occurred in the early hours at about 0242Hours of today, Monday, 15th April 2024, hence the loss of power supply on all our feeders.”

 

The company’s head of Corporate Affairs, Dr Friday Adakole Elijah, stated that a fire disaster caused a partial disturbance of the nation’s grid which was experienced across the country.

 

Also speaking on the collapse, the General Manager, Public Affairs, TCN, Ndidi Mbah, stressed that efforts were being intensified to boost investment on measures designed to strengthen the grid infrastructure.

 

According to the statement, “The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) announces the full restoration of the national grid following a fire incident at the Afam Power Generating Station, which caused a partial disturbance of the nation’s grid.

 

“At 02:41Hours today, 15th April, 2024, a fire erupted at the Afam V 330kV bus bar coupler, leading to the tripping of units at Afam III and Afam VI. This resulted in a sudden generation loss of 25MW and 305MW respectively, destabilizing the grid and causing a partial collapse.

 

“During the incident, the Ibom Power Plant was isolated from the grid and was supplying parts of the Port Harcourt Region.

 

“This further minimized the effect of the system disturbance. TCN confirms that the affected section of the grid has been fully restored and stabilized.

 

“TCN reaffirms its commitment to enhancing the resilience and reliability of the national grid and pledges to continue investing in measures aimed at further strengthening the grid infrastructure.”

 

Going by the side effects of increase in tariff, South-East Electricity Consumers Association(SEECA)  condemned in strong terms the 300 percent increase in tariff announced by the Federal government, and urged that prepaid meters be installed to every household and businesses before the implementation.

 

The Chairman and secretary of the Association Reverend Okechukwu Christopher Obioha and Mr Ogubuike Ibeagi respectively made this known in a statement issued as part of their resolution at the meeting held in all the five Southeast states of Nigeria

 

The body pointed out that henceforth no consumer of electricity under the DisCo EEDC should pay for prepaid meter/s. adding that Meter/s is the property of EEDC and by law must be issued free to consumers.

 

The statement also said that the association resolved that no individual/s or community/s should buy or provide transformers for their electricity consumption and that if it becomes unavoidable, the transformer procurement should be done after negotiations and MOUs with the EEDC or Geometrics.

 

It stated that the cost of the transformer/s should be imputed in the energy usage of the consumers involved by the DisCo and must give at least two weeks notice after delivery of bills on consumption as estimated if not contested, before cutting of lights.

 

Also as part of the resolution, the association demands that estimated bills be stopped and prepaid meters issued to all consumers or else, consumers lights must not be cut.

 

It maintained that SEECA has come to stand in the gap between the NERC, DisCo EEDC and Consumers, assuring that it will act in good faith to strengthen the operations of the EEDC  to deliver their contractual responsibility.

 

“No consumer of electricity under the DisCo EEDC should pay for prepaid meter/s. Meter/s is the property of EEDC and therefore by law must be issued free to consumers.

 

“No individual/s or community/s should buy or provide transformers for their electricity consumption. If that is very unavoidable, the transformer procurement should be done after negotiations and MOUs with the EEDC or Geometrics.

 

“In that case if feasible, the cost of the transformer/s should be imputed in the energy usage of the consumers involved by the Disco.

 

Giving credence to the position of group, the House of Representatives has frowned at the increase, noting estimated billing is being used outrageously.

 

The Chairman of the House Committee on Power, Hon Victor Nwokolo stated that the concerns expressed by electricity users in the country is that estimated bills are being given even to the consumers of electricity  when the power is not readily available.

 

Nwokolo noted that power sector is getting closer to a situation where the gas to power the energy sector is not there while consumers are being made to pay through their nose.

 

Amidst ongoing dust raised by the new electricity tarrif coupled with persistent epileptic power supply, electricity workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), have renewed their opposition to the hike, insisting that it is not beneficial to Nigerian consumers.

 

The union noted in a statement signed by its Acting General Secretary, Comrade Dominic Igwebike that the recent hike in electricity tariff from N68 /kwh to N225 /kwh is absurd in a country where the majority of the masses are grappling with basic survival and an electricity access rate of about 55 per cent.

 

“The justification given by NERC is that the hike is attributed to only Band A consumers who make up only 15 percent of electricity consumers and utilize 40 per cent of the nation’s electricity consumption. It begs to understand the sensibility of the person(s) that uttered such a statement purporting that it would not affect the general public.

 

”They need to answer these questions: Who are the Band A consumers? What do they do? Who are the customers of the Band A consumers? Who bears the brunt of the electricity hike?

 

“The general public is the one that will be most affected by this. They are the customers and end- users of the Band A products and services. The additional costs will be transferred to the common man, so they are indirectly being exploited, notwithstanding their dwindling purchasing power and increasing impoverishment, “ NUEE warned.

 

The union argued that the increased cost of goods will make Nigerian-produced goods unattractive as imported and smuggled items will be far cheaper than it. “People will resort to those goods, thereby fueling the economy and employment situation of the countries of import. Our manufacturing and business sectors will become comatose” it noted.

 

While lamenting that the Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu and NERC did not consult with the stakeholders in the sector before the increasing the tarrif, NUEE stated, “As a critical stakeholder in the Power Sector who is concerned with Nigerians getting constant and affordable power supply, we state categorically that the hike in the electricity tariff is not beneficial to Nigerians and should be withdrawn.”

 

Hence, by this non-clear posture of NERC on electricity tariff increase amidst continual collapse of national grid, it simply connotes a means of milking the common man dry which ought to be properly redefined by the power ministry in order not to strangulate electricity consumers in the country.

 

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