By Emmanuel Addeh
Electricity distribution companies (Discos) in the country Sunday tackled the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) over an alleged attempt by the regulatory body to dissociate itself from the July 1 commencement of a new electricity tariff regime.
Coming under their umbrella body, the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), the power distributors stated that the demand that neither the NERC nor the federal government should be mentioned in statements notifying customers of the hike will not work.
A release signed by the Discos’ Executive Director of Research and Advocacy, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, noted that in a regulated sector, the distribution companies cannot take a decision about a very critical aspect of the sector like tariff without a nod from NERC.
“What has happened in recent days is that our regulator is warning us not to mention their name or the federal government in any of our communication about the tariff increase with our customers. This is certainly very unfair.
“Many stakeholders have expressed their concern at the unusual silence of our regulator, NERC on the upcoming increase and it looks like a unilateral decision by the Discos.
“We’ll like to inform Nigerians that tariff review (upward or downwards) is the primary responsibility of NERC as our regulator. We are required to submit our proposals and they have the final say,” the Discos said.
ANED stressed that its members were surprised to receive a letter from NERC warning them not to mention its (NEEC) name or that of the federal government in any public communications on tariffs.
It added: “While it is our obligation to communicate the increase, it is also important for customers to know that it is following standard processes of tariff adjustments in the sector with approvals from NERC and the federal government.
“As Discos, we believe in the rule of law. We will only carry out lawful approval and instructions by our regulator. The proposed increase and the timing of the increase in tariffs was done by NERC.
“It is their statutory responsibility. Discos alone cannot fix and approve electricity tariffs. We are very sensitive to the feelings and yearnings of our customers during this period of COVID-19.”
The Discos said that this informed their proposal, in conjunction with the National Assembly to suggest a two-month free electricity supply for their residential customers, but said the proposal was not approved by the federal government, citing paucity of funds.
“The fact that the action is deliberately made to look unilateral is capable of creating public resistance, effectively setting Discos up to fail,” Oduntan said.
All Discos had started communicating the new tariff regime, set to take effect from July 1, 2020, since last week.
The communication, the Discos said, were geared towards enlightening customers about the details of the ‘service-based’ tariff increase to ensure customers are fully aware about how it pertained to them and the supply band they fall under.
“The truth is that we are the public-facing arm of the sector, but what we collect is shared by everybody, including NERC.
“Our interest is in the nurturing of a commercially viable power sector. Political considerations and bickering will certainly not take us there,” the Discos said.