Court nullifies electricity tariff increase

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A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday revoked the recent increase in electricity tariff announced by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission.
Justice Mohammed Idris made the pronouncement while delivering judgment in a suit filed by a human rights lawyer, Toluwani Adebiyi, challenging the increment.

The judge described NERC’s action as being ultra vires, irrational, irregular and illegal.

Relying on sections 31, 32 and 76 of the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act, 2005, the court held: “NERC acted outside the powers conferred on it by the Act and failed to follow the prescribed procedure.”

The court was also of the view that “NERC had not shown that it acted in due obedience to prescribed procedures”, adding that there is no evidence that it complied with Section 76 (6), (7) and (9) of the EPSRA Act.
The court further held that of all legal requirements, NERC only complied with one, which was to the effect that it announced the new tariff in the newspapers.

The judge held: “It is clear from the affidavit evidence that the increase in tariff was done by NERC in defiance of the order of this court made on May 28, 2015, which directed parties in the case to maintain status quo.

“The law is that every person upon whom an order is made by a court of competent jurisdiction must obey it, unless and until the order is discharged and set aside at the Appeal.

“The tariff increase from July 1, 2015, was done in breach of the ‘status quo’ order; NERC’s action, was therefore, clearly hasty, reckless and irresponsible.
“This country is in a democracy where the rule of law must prevail over impunity or whimsical desires; anything to the contrary will be an invitation to anarchy.

“It is the law that what is done officially must be done in accordance to the law; Investors are free to do business in Nigeria but they shall abide by the law of this country.

“Nigeria is not a Kangaroo State. Nigeria is not a Banana Republic; it is intolerant and extremely dangerous for anyone to create a posture that it may not obey certain orders of the court.”

In invoking the disciplinary jurisdiction of the court, Idris further held: “The increment in electricity tariff which took effect after the institution of this action and while a restraining order was subsisting is hereby declared illegal and same is hereby set aside.

“NERC is hereby directed to reverse to the status quo and the commission is hereby restrained from further increasing electricity tariff, except it complies strictly with the relevant provisions of the EPSRA.”

More so, the court awarded costs of N50,000 in favour of the plaintiff.
The plaintiff had filed the suit seeking an order restraining NERC from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff without a meaningful improvement in power supply, at least for 18 hours daily.

He had also sought an order restraining the NERC from foisting a compulsory service charge on pre-paid meters until “the meters are designed to read charges per second of consumption”.

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