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Lawyer drags NERC, AEDC to Court over alleged discrimination using Policy of Classification

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CHIGOZIE IKPO, Abuja

 

Human Rights Lawyer, Festus Onifade has dragged the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) to court over the violation of his fundamental rights to freedom from discrimination by the regulatory bodies.

Onifade, a resident of Abuja, in his suit said the policy of classification introduced by the NERC, places him into a category of the underprivileged, by location and is a breach of his fundamental rights to freedom from discrimination as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

The suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/492/2024, dated and filed on April 16, 2024, had the NERC, AEDC and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), marked as 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.

Onifade asked the court to determine “whether by virtue of the provision of Article 3 and 18 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Law of The Federation 2004 and Section 15 (2) and 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended), the policy of Classification by the 1st Defendant is not a violation of the CLAIMANT and other Customer’s Fundamental Right of freedom from Discrimination.”

“Whether by virtue of provisions SECTION 116 OF ELECTRICITY ACT, 2023 and REGULATION ON PROCEDURE FOR ELECTRICITY TARIFF REVIEW IN THE NIGERIA ELECTRICITY SUPPLY INDUSTRY, 2014, the Multi Year Tarriff Order, 2024 and the eventual tariffs increase of Band A Customers of 2nd Defendant is not unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, null and void ab initio for non-compliance with extant laws.

“Whether having regards to the provisions of Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2018 and other extant law, the Notice given by the 1st and 2nd Defendant in respect of 3rd April, 2024 Tarriff increase is not inadequate, inequitable, unfair, unreasonable, unjust and a breach of the Claimant’s Consumer Rights.”

The legal practitioner therefore asked the court to declare as Unconstitutional, Unlawful, Illegal, null and void, the policy of classification deployed by the NERC and an order barring the defendants and other agencies from giving effect to the 2024 Multi Year Tariff Order.

He equally asked for a cost of 5,000,000 (five Million Naira) breached of the Claimant’s fundamental right to freedom from discrimination by the Defendants and an additional 1,000,000 (one million naira) which is the cost of the suit.

In his affidavit in support of the originating summon, Onifade held that the Policy of classification had it that customers within the Federal Capital Territory, Nasarawa and Niger States, covered by the AERC were classified into bands A, B, C, D, E, adding that the policy took effect with immediate effect.

He said the classification meant that customers living in the satellite areas are now regarded as the most important, enjoying near-perfect electricity, while the claimant and others living in bands B to E are left to manage extremely low electricity, just because of where they live.

He asked the court to intervene in the case to protect their right to Freedom from discrimination.

Onifade therefore prayed the court for an Order of Interlocutory Injunction, restraining the defendants or other from further giving effect or continuing with the policy of classification pending the hearing and determination of the Substantive suit.

No date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.

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