BEDC Drags NERC to Court over Planned Licence for Asaba Distribution

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By Emmanuel Addeh

The Benin Electricity Distribution (BEDC) has dragged the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to court over the regulator’s plan to grant an operating licence to Asaba Distribution Limited (ADL).

Following the petition to the regulator by Benin Disco, the regulatory agency for the power sector, had fixed yesterday, January 19 for the hearing of the petition which sought to stop the release of an Independent Electricity Distribution Network Licence to the firm.

While setting out modalities for resolution of the issue, NERC stated that the hearing was pursuant to Section 70 (2) of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA).

According to the commission, it was also in line with clause 11 of the NERC Application for Licences Regulations 2010, and section 17 of NERC (Business Rules of the Commission) Regulations (Business Rules) 2006.

The regulator stated that the petition would be heard and determined by a panel of three commissioners of the commission yesterday.

“In compliance with Section 45 of EPSRA and Section 17 of the Business Rules, the commission has resolved that the petition/objection filed by BEDC against the granting of the application of ADL, shall be heard by a panel of three commissioners as stipulated in section 17 (3) of the Business Rules.

“The conduct of the hearing shall be in accordance with the business rules of the commission and further procedural rules relevant to the conduct of hearings as determined by the commission,” NERC stated.

However, in a statement halting the planned hearing, NERC disclosed that it had been sued by Benin Disco over the matter, noting that it would be in breach of the law if it continued to sit over the matter.

While announcing the indefinite deferment of the sitting which was planned to resolve the matter, the regulatory agency described the suit as premature and against public interest.

NERC stated: “The commission hereby notifies the public of the indefinite postponement of the hearing that was scheduled for January 19, 2021 for the consideration of the petition filed by Benin Electricity Distribution Plc (BEDC) against the issuance of an independent electricity distribution network (IEDN) licence to Asaba Distribution Limited (ADL).

“The hearing has been postponed because BEDC filed a suit at the Federal High Court (Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/36/2021) on January 15, 2021 against the commission and ADL and the suit seeks, amongst other reliefs, an order of perpetual injunction restraining the commission from granting an IEDN licence to ADL to operate within BEDC’s electricity distribution area.

“The court processes were served on the commission on January 18, 2021 and arrangements have been made for the defence of the suit which the commission believes is premature and has been instituted in bad faith against the overall public interest as all administrative remedies available to the parties have not been exhausted.”