Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos) have been ordered by a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos not to hike electricity tariffs as announced by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) pending the determination of a motion challenging it.
The NERC had on December 31 directed the DisCos to raise their rates by over 70 per cent to enable them have enough capital to pay for electricity distributed by them.
However, NERC back pedalled after public outcry, promising that consultations with consumers and other stakeholders would be carried out to determine if or not the new rate would stand.
At the hearing of a suit by the Incorporated Trustees of Human Rights Foundation against 15 respondents in the electricity industry, Justice Muslim Hassan ordered the parties to maintain status quo.
The respondents are: NERC, the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE); the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company Plc; and the Minister of Power.
Also joined as respondents are Abuja, Benin, Enugu, Ikeja, Kaduna, Kano, Port Harcourt, Yola, Eko, Ibadan and Jos DisCo.
In its suit, the NGOs filed an ex parte motion praying the court to stop the new tariff from coming into effect.
The applicant argued that “the implementation of the purported minor review of the Multi-Year Tariff Order would create “unquantifiable hardship and damages” on electricity consumers.
“Consumers will be made to pay very high tariff, which has been increased by over 40 per cent across the board of which is currently being billed.”
In an affidavit deposed to by Theodora Ubabunike, the human rights group said: “It will amount to a great injustice to impose arbitrary electricity tariff on Nigerian electricity consumers.
“Nigerians will suffer monumental loss as many people will not be able to access power or access same at very high tariff. I know that Nigerians are entitled to access public amenities like electrical power.”
In arguing the application on Monday, the applicant’s counsel, Anaje Chinedu, prayed for “an order of interim injunction restraining NERC from taking any step towards the implementation of the purported Minor Review of the Multi-Year Tariff Order 2015 and the Remittance Order 2019,” pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
Justice Hassan declined to grant the ex parte application, but said “the status quo ante bellum shall be maintained by the parties in this suit pending the determination of the motion on notice.”
He adjourned till January 20, 2020, for the hearing of the motion on notice.