Electricity Tariff Hike: NLC blasts ex-NERC chairman

FILE PHOTO: Some members of the Electricity Consumer Protection Forum, Protesting the proposed hike in electricity tariff and alleged darkness across the nation at Ikeja,Lagos on Thursday' Nov. 12, 2015.

The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, on Sunday responded to the immediate past Chairman, Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Sam Amadi, who said that the Senate acted beyond its constitutional powers in directing that the recent hike in electricity tariffs be rescinded.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who described Mr. Amadi’s statement as “treacherous, shameful and saddening”, called for the immediate probe of his tenure at the agency.

The ex-NERC boss had told PREMIUM TIMES in an exclusive interview that the ​Nigerian Senate’s recent directive for the suspension of the new electricity tariff regime in the country was “illegal, unconstitutional and a direct encroachment on executive independence.”

According to Mr. Amadi, apart from the Senate lacking the constitutional right to give such a directive, NERC, as presently constituted, was incompetent to suspend or rescind the tariff order issued by the former ​commissioners

“Until a new ​Commission has been reconstituted to consider whether to review or totally suspend the order, nobody anywhere can validly review or suspend the current tariffs,”​ Mr. Amadi had said.​

He described as unwise Senate’s decision to instruct NERC to halt the tariffs, pointing out that apart from creating serious regulatory risks in the market, obeying the directive would erode NERC’s independence as an industry regulator.

“The order by the Senate for NERC to rescind the tariff is a direct infringement on the independence of the executive to initiate policies, in this case through NERC.

“It is a subtle derogation of the powers of the executive. It offends the concept of separation of power. That is clearly against the law and unconstitutional,” he explained.

But, in his statement in Abuja on Sunday, Mr. Wabba said Mr. Amadi was “economical with the truth” despite his legal knowledge of the role of the legislature.

Mr. Wabba pointed out that the duty of the legislature as defined by the Constitution, included legislation, oversight and investigation, adding that independence of the three arms of government in a liberal democracy was a coordinate one.

Even if the independence was absolute, the NLC president argued, such could not be in “pursuance of criminality, fraud or injustice.”

The Labour leader said he found it disgusting that Mr. Amadi could only remember the independence of the executive and not that of the judiciary, which gave a restraining order to NERC to suspend the tariffs implementation until the substantive case was determined.

“What else do we expect from a Chairman who not only compromised the Commission, but surrendered willy nilly its functions to the successor-companies in the power sector for God-knows why,” the NLC president said.

Mr. Wabba accused Mr. Amadi of instigating NERC not to obey the Senate’s directive, saying the NLC was calling on the relevant agencies to probe not just his tenure at NERC, but also the entire privatisation process.

He said the NLC was demanding NERC’s immediate respect of the directive by the Senate.

“We also demand that if any DISCO (distribution company) or GENCO. (Generation company) does not have the requisite capacity, it should honourably surrender its possessory and proprietary rights to government as was the case with the Yola Electricity Company. The Yola company was honourable enough and reasons adduced by it, genuine,” Mr. Wabba said.

He warned that the NLC would not allow any person or agency take the people for a ride any more.

“We will not fold our hands while a few individuals or companies or institutions further plunder and plunge this country into abyss,” he warned.

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