Take-off now 2021
DisCos: FG must bear cost differential
The leadership of the National Assembly, yesterday, halted the planned hike in electricity tariffs by convincing the electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) to shelve their plan till the first quarter of 2021.
The companies had earlier announced that the new tariff would commence on July 1, 2020.
The decision to suspend the hike came after the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and other principal officers of the two chambers met with the Chief Executives of the electricity companies as well as the leadership of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) at the National Assembly.
New Telegraph gathered adthat during the meeting, the leadership of the National Assembly were emphatic even though they were not against the introduction of a cost reflective tariff for the power sector to attract the much needed investment, the timing of the planned hike was wrong. On their own part, the DisCos admitted that much as they desired to introduce the new tarriff, they were not well prepared for the process at the moment.
Lawan appealed to them to suspend action on the controversial issue to enable him and his colleagues seek audience with President Muhammadu Buhari on a lasting solution to the challenge of the power sector. “The agreement here is that there is not going to be any increase in the tariffs on July 1st,” Lawan said at the end of the meeting. “The Speaker and I, we are going to take appropriate action and meet with the President.
“We are in agreement here that there is no question on the justification of the increase, but the time is simply not right and appropriate measures need to be put in place “So between now and the first quarter of next year, our task will be to work together with you to ensure that we put those blocks in place to support the eventual increase in tariffs,” Lawan said.
According to Lawan, the government had been doing a lot as part of its obligations to provide some form of intervention in the power sector. “I’m quite aware that for this year, probably starting from last year, over N600 billion was earmarked for this sector to improve. “The potential increase in the tariffs is definitely something that will be of concern to us in the National Assembly.
“There is too much stress in the lives of Nigerians today and indeed across the world because of the challenges imposed by COVID- 19 pandemic and even before then, we had issues that would always make it tough for our people to effectively pay the tariffs.
“One way or the other, for this business to flourish, for this sector to be appropriately fixed, for it to attract investment, something has to give way, there is no doubt about that but it is also crucial that we look at the timing for any of our actions,” Lawan said. In the same vein, Gbajabiamila said the National Assembly is on the same page with the DisCos on the issue of cost reflective tariffs. “There is time for everything.
A well intended programme or policy of government can fall flat on the face and never recover if you do it at a wrong time. I think we all agree to that. “There cannot be a time as bad as this for us to increase anything. Forget about electricity, anything.
Whereas, even in time of decreasing revenue, we are even reducing the pump price. I don’t know how we can justify an increase in the cost of electricity at this time in Nigeria
. “The good things is that we have agreed that we need to do something about the cost. Whatever will affect his government is something that should concern all of us.
I think this will affect this government and if it is going to affect this government, we should all rally around our people, our president and the government to make sure we do the right thing,” Gbajabiamila said.
The representatives of the DisCos said if the planned hike is eventually deferred till next year, the government should continue to bear the difference in the present tariff and what was considered as the appropriate tariff. In attendance at the meeting were the representatives of NERC, Kano Electricity Distribution Company, Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company and Eko Electricity Distribution Company.