SERAP Asks Court to Order FG, Fashola to Provide Free Pre-paid Meters to Nigerians

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A civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has sued the federal government and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), over their collective failure refusal to enforce their own directives to electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) to provide free prepaid meters to all Nigerians and end the use of patently illegal, arbitrary, unfair and discriminatory estimated billing across the country.

The application with suit number FHC/L/CS/906/17 was filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

SERAP in the suit, argued that Fashola by failing and neglecting to enforce his directives to DISCOs, he is implicitly promoting the use of unjustifiable estimated billing, and increasing consumer costs.

He said the use of estimated billing is marginalising Nigerians living in extreme poverty, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly, and increasing their vulnerability to discrimination.

SERAP also argueed that Fashola’s constitutional and statutory responsibility is not just to give directives to DISCOs to provide free prepaid meters to all Nigerians but also to decisively enforce such directives and end the use of estimated billing.

It contended that effective access to electricity includes metering of all consumers, and that responsibility of the federal government has been assigned to Fashola, and that he cannot shy away from it.

SERAP further argues that, “Unless the reliefs sought are granted, Mr Fashola and the Federal Government will not perform their constitutional and statutory responsibilities to enforce the directives to DISCOs to provide free prepaid meters to all Nigerians. It is in the interest of justice to ensure strict enforcement of directives, deadlines and regulations on provision of free pre-paid meters to all Nigerians, and an end to estimated billing.”

The suit brought pursuant to Order 34 of the Federal High Court Rules and the inherent jurisdiction of the court, was signed by SERAP deputy director Timothy Adewale. The suit followed the organisation’s request to Fashola asking him to “urgently enforce your directives and discharge your ministerial and statutory duty to ensure completion of metering of unmetered customers and total abolition of estimated billing in the country.”

The suit read in part: “Access to regular electricity supply is a prerequisite for satisfying basic human needs, improving living standards, maintaining good human health, alleviating poverty and facilitating sustainable development. It’s unlawful for DISCOs to disconnect electricity supplies on the basis of unpaid estimated bills.

“Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law. In a democratic society, this is meant to be a norm; it is an apostasy for government to ignore the provisions of the law and the necessary rules and directives made to regulate matters.”