It would seem like 2021 kicked off with cutting short the smiles of many barely 5 days into the year. As a matter of urgent public importance, one may even need to check the long list of prophecies that have been released concerning this year to be sure table shaking (interprete in your own context) and shockers are not included.
Otherwise, how does one explain the nation waking up to an approved increase in electricity tariff by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), on the first Tuesday of the year – and for the second time in less than two months.
“The commission, pursuant to sections 32 and 76 of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (“EPSRA”), issued the Revised MYTO – 2020 Tariff Order within an effective date of 1 November 2020 to address, amongst other objectives, the transition to cost-reflective tariffs (CRT) and introduction of Service-Based Tariffs (SBT) regime with a view to improving customer service experience as well as ensuring financial sustainability of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (“NESI”).”
According to the above statement dated December 31, 2020 and signed by new NERC Chairman, Sanusi Garba, a new rate is payable by electricity customers of the 11 Distribution Companies (DISCOs) spread across the country effective from January 1, 2021. The statement generated furore as soon as it got to the public space this Tuesday, as this new increment order was issued barely two months after the implementation of the controversial increase proposed in 2020.
With the massive outrage across social media especially microblogging platform; Twitter, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission made attempt to clarify what it termed misinformation of the public by the media.
In its reaction, the regulatory body insisted that tariff for customers being served less than an average of 12 hours of supply per day over a period of one month would remain frozen and subsidised, in line with the policy direction of the Federal Government. It however, admitted that the rates for service bands A, B, C, D, and E have been “adjusted” by N2 to N4 per kilowatt-hour (KWH).
“Putting things straight,” NERC wants you to know that the adjustment was in compliance with the provisions of the Electric Power Sector Reform (ESPR) Act and Nigeria’s tariff methodology for biannual minor review, the agency explained that it was aimed at reflecting the partial impact of inflation and movement in forex.
It is unarguable that the clarification left more persons confused than initially. What is also not in doubt is the fact that some electricity consumers would be paying more this year than they previously did.
The challenges in the power sector ranging from perennial failure to provide prepaid metres to epileptic supply and sundry issues must be tackled frontally but a continuous increase in electricity tariff is counter productive. Worse still, a denial of same or ambiguous communication is trying to be clever than half.
All of these definitely increases the level of distrust in government and the distribution companies. We hope the concerned authorities would be more sensitive on issues like this and prioritise the welfare of the people in order not to complicate an already frosty relationship and increase the rate of hardship among its citizenry.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Political Journalist, Analyst and Social Change Advocate with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.