President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Tuesday met separately with the leadership of the National Assembly, and agreed on the deferment of electricity tariff hike meant to kickoff Wednesday, July 1, 2020.
The National Assembly leadership had on Monday intervened in the planned hike of electricity tariff by the service providers, saying the timing was wrong in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on citizens’ income.
President of the Senate Mr Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, who briefed State House correspondents after the separate meetings, said Buhari and Osinbajo agreed that the timing was not expedient, hence the increment should be deferred till further notice.
Responding to questions on the hike of electricity tariff and complaints by DISCOs that they operate under heavy financial burden, Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr Femi Gbajabiamila said: “Let me just say that we saw the President earlier this morning and we have seen the Vice President today. The whole idea is that when there is a major policy decision, it is always good that the legislature and the executive are on the same page so that we don’t sing different tunes.
“I will like to say that I think we have all agreed on an increase in cost reflective tariff but the issue is that the timing is also important. Sometimes, timing is more important than even the policy decision that you make. There is a saying that the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. So the intention is good but what about the timing? We have all agreed to suspend this for a while, tarry a while and get the buy-in of the people, explain to the people why this has to be done, that it is for the betterment of the electricity to get stable.
“They are businessmen (DISCOS) and cannot be undercutting themselves. I think so far so good, the President listens attentively, the Vice President listens attentively and I think everybody is on the same page and hopefully, we will get some reprieve between now and whenever but it’s not going to happen today.”
Also speaking, President of the Senate Mr Ahmad Lawan said the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted negatively on the lives of Nigerians.“We have come to visit our Vice President, one of our leaders in connection with the impending electricity tariff in the country.
“The joint leadership of the National Assembly sat yesterday (Monday) with DISCOS and Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission ( NERC). We believe that this is not the right time to increase the tariff in the electricity sector. Nigerians have a lot of challenges today because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the situation requires that we do everything possible to make life easy for our citizens.
“Of course, the government is doing a lot in this respect but we believe that DISCOS should meet with consumers, find better cost effective tariffs. But before then, there must be some steps to ensure that the consumers are properly metered otherwise, you will still go back to guessing what consumers are consuming. That is to say that let the billing be scientifically based, it has to be based on what you actually consumed.
“So, we had this discussion with Mr. Vice President and we are sure that that announcement in the increase of electricity tariff in Nigeria is untimely. We believe that we need to do more work to ensure that before any increase, there must be some measures, steps, line of actions that must be exhausted including the metering. This is a welcome idea to the Vice President as well,” he said.
He said all stakeholders must adhere to the share purchase agreement signed with the government.
“I believe that the share purchase agreement signed by the government and the DISCOS at the point of the privatization must be adhered to. These are businesses and they must do everything possible to provide services. It is when they provide efficient and effective services to consumers that they can make money. But as a government, we too must make sure that we discharge our obligations as provided for in the share purchase agreement signed. Once we are able to achieve that, we will have a better situation in the power sector in Nigeria. It is doable, it has happened elsewhere.
“So, we cannot continue to give DISCOS and GENCOS the resources that we can ordinarily deploy to build hospitals. But whatever it’s necessary for us to do as part of our agreement with them we must do those,” he said.