By ODUNEWU SEGUN
THE judgement of a Federal High Court in Lagos penultimate week to outlaw the 2015 electricity tariff increase, ordering distribution companies to revert to the old rates has been described as a clog in the wheels of electricity distribution in the country.
Reacting to the judgement, the 11 electricity distribution companies (Discos) operating in Nigeria condemned the decision, adding that such a decision was not in the interest of the development of the power sector. They also blamed the Federal Government and the Nigerian Electricity regulatory Commission for their failure to keep to agreement.
Speaking through their association, the Association of Electricity Distribution Companies (ANED), at a press briefing in Abuja said Nigerians would have to choose between working with them to improve the country’s electricity system for their benefits and going back to darkness which, according to them, had been the situation before the privatisation of the sector.
The Executive Director for Research and Documentation of ANED, Mr. Sunday Oduntan alleged at the briefing that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) knew that the 2015 tariff was inadequate to attract investment in the sector because it is not absolutely cost reflective.
He said NERC and the government have for more than two years failed to live up to the agreement it reached with the Discos that a cost reflective tariff will be allowed in the sector to attract investments into it.
Oduntan noted that with the current situation, financial institutions in the country are already cutting back their investments in the sector, a situation he said would impact on the Discos’ network expansion plans.
According to him, “Nigerians have an option between light and darkness. If we need darkness, let us continue the way we are going now. Let’s continue to say they should reverse the tariff, let’s continue to steal energy, let’s continue to vandalise gas pipelines, let’s continue not paying our bills.
“If we continue, darkness looms, if we can change we can increase the power supply. We can progress gradually from incremental to a stable and uninterrupted power supply, but we can’t achieve this without the cooperation of everybody.
He added that “Inappropriate tariff leads to a shortfall, the shortfall leads to funding gap and funding gap leads to inefficiency, because we will not be able to give appropriate service.”
Oduntan remarked that even with the 2015 tariff which the law court dismissed last week, it was still quite difficult for them to operate and meet the demands of consumers in their networks.
He further stressed that public electricity services in the country would have to be priced appropriately for steady investments and improvements to be recorded, hence the group’s decision to respect the Lagos court judgement; file for a stay of its execution; and then appeal against it at a higher court.