Nigerians are outraged over Monday’s 50 percent unceremonious hike in the price of electricity, saying it is an additional burden on them.
Citizens including artisans, technicians, teachers, manufacturers and industrialists described the increase as ill-timed, insensitive and a deliberate attempt to further increase the difficulties they are passing through at a time they were trying to pick their pieces following months of COVID-19 lockdown.
The new tariff regime would affect customers having power supply for 12 hours and above; those on estimated billing and or without meters and residential, commercial and industrial customers as well as special-purpose uses like street lights and others.
The increase did not, however, affect poor or lifeline customers as they would continue to pay N4 kilowatt-hour (kwh).
It will also not affect customers receiving 50 kWh per month and customers having below 12-hour power supply daily.
However, low-income earners interviewed on Tuesday said it would be difficult to ascertain the people receiving less than 12 hours power supply while owners of some small scale industries, including rice millers said the increase would have a direct effect on the cost of production.
Daily Trust learnt that the new tariff hike was endorsed by President Muhammadu Buhari after an ad-hoc committee was set up to review the tariff in June.
A member of the committee, which had Fola Adeola, the Chairman of GT Bank; former CBN governor, Prof. Charles Soludo, among others, said fearing the looming recession, the committee submitted that there was a need to raise the power tariff because there was no budgetary provision to subsidise the power sector in the 2020 revised budget.
“Should we stay and allow the economy to collapse?” a member of the ad hoc committee asked.
“What we insisted at the meetings is that the poor who are mostly in Residential 1 (R1) and R2 should not have any increase.
“We also got assurances from the highest level that the poor are not going to be affected by this tariff; the government has not closed the door for an engagement,” he said.
According to series of the tariff hike notices from the DisCos, the hikes in the different electricity rates were duly approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) for the next four months.
NERC had recently okayed tariff hike but said the DisCos must consult with customers first.
“Following consultations and directions on tariff policy, the Commission (NERC) hereby approves a deferment of the applicable tariffs for customers in service band D and E (that is customers with a service commitment of less than an average of 12 hours of supply per day over a period of one month) for the period 1st September 2020 to 1st January 2021,” the commission said.
NERC stated that the new tariff order will end on January 1, 2021, when sources in the power industry said the Commission is expected to approve another hike for the power firms.
– ‘Increase marks another chapter of difficulties’ –
John Garba is a barbershop operator at Kado Estate in Abuja who recently battled and cleared his tenement rate.
He said besides struggling to buy fuel for his power generator after a fuel price hike; he is now faced with a hike in electricity bill by over 50 percent.
“From the bills of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), Kado area is said to have over 12-hour power supply and so the tariff is rising by nearly 50 percent.
“This is unbearable during the COVID-19 period as businesses are slow,” Garba said.
The struggling entrepreneur is not the only one facing this challenge as there is a general outcry by customers of the 11 DisCos.
Bello Olagoke at the Mararaba part of Nasarawa State, near Abuja, expressed doubt if there would be any difference when he was told that areas with power supply below 12 hours have not been included in the latest hike.
He said; “Who will monitor the DisCos if they decide to bill everyone where there is epileptic power supply?
“Even now our bills are outrageous despite the frequent outages.”
A lecturer at the Department of Political Science at the University of Lagos, Dr Isiaka Adams, said the tariff increase was an indication that the Nigerian government was not sensitive to the plight of the masses.
“This is not the appropriate time to increase the tariff regardless of the excuses or pressure from Gencos and Discos.
“As we speak, the majority of Nigerians have not been metered.
“People are asked to pay N38, 800 for a single-phase meter and the minimum wage in Nigeria is N33,000 and many states are yet to pay and even the federal government is yet to implement it.
“Some tertiary institutions have not started paying the minimum wage until now.
“The government is burdening people unnecessarily with various taxes,” he said.
Citing recent statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), he said many Nigerians were out of job and the unemployment rate had increased.
Mr Tajudeen Gbadamosi said the increase would further deepened the woes of consumers whom he said were already paying through their nose since the beginning of this year.
A rice miller in Kano, Saminu Ya’u Kangon Kaloma in Kano said the cost of processing rice will skyrocket.
“You must use electricity to process rice and therefore the price in the market will definitely rise,” he said.