Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Ayuba Wabba yesterday cautioned the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) against raising tariff.
According to him, the elite are migrating from the supply of the electricity distribution companies and seeking alternative power source because the tariff is not affordable.
Wondering how low income earners would cope with an increased tariff, Wabba warned the commission not to push for laws that consumers would violate with impunity.
The NERC was meeting with the electricity Distribution Companies, NLC and power consumers to consider how to come up with the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) regulation in 2017 estimated billing cap for unmetered customers.
Speaking at the public consultation on capping of estimated billing, Wabba submitted: “On our part, anything that will add cost to the consumers at this point in time, certainly, as a consumer and somebody that represents a large constituency, we will not be able to bear the cost.”
He urged the commission and stakeholders in the power sector to think of other options instead of profit that is not commensurate with power supply to the customer.
Wabba said: “Where we are, the poverty level in Nigeria, I am telling you that many of us cannot afford to pay this exploitative billing.
“I had a retired DIG calling me that I used to pay such amount and now this is what I am paying. I cannot pay. Those are the people at the higher level. What of those at lower level: small and medium scale enterprises like the barbers?
“Can the cooks pay? What is the per capital income in Nigeria? Let us be realistic, if not we put laws in place that are violated and nothing will happen.”
He called for the review of the privatisation of the power sector, which he said was copied from India that is also lamenting over epileptic power supply.
According to him, the development in India has shown unviability of the concept and therefore cannot satisfy is Nigeria’s power need.
His words: “If we are going to the wrong direction, we should not continue to go the wrong direction because it will not take us to the ultimate destination. Recently, I was in India. The lamentation we are doing here is what they are doing in India. We borrowed this whole process from India.
“I saw that the same issues we are passing through is what they are passing through. So, if we borrowed this power concept from India and India is even having the same problems we are having it means we are going the wrong direction. Then we must revisit it so that we get to the point that will take us to the right destination.”
Describing the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) as exploitative, he asked the NERC to exercise the full wrath of the law on the company that is making life hellish for Nigerians.
According to him, the NERC has been treating the DisCos with kid gloves while it has on the other hand, been hard on the customers.
Insisting that estimated billing is exploitative, the labour leader recalled the ordeal of the Cuban consulate to Nigeria, whose meter was removed while he was on leave.
Within a month, said Wabba, the consulate got an exploitative billing he had never paid for the past 20 years.
Wabba added that the NLC office was getting a N630, 000 monthly billing from the AEDC for opening between 8:00am and 5:00pm, even without electricity supply.
He said the company was fond of supplying power to the Power House only five days prior to billing day, which compelled the congress to apply for meters to no avail and went to court.
“In the court, even the DisCo was in two categories. While the legal department said it is our right to have meters. The commercial department said the revenue will go down if customers get meters,” said Wabba.
The company, said the labour leader, opted for out of court settlement yet refused to meter the Labour House until the union resorted to scheduling a protest to close down all DisCos offices for estimated billing.
The commissioner on Consumer Affairs, Dr. Moses Arigu had earlier said that even with the implementation of the MAP regulation, not all the consumers can be metered at the same time.
NERC has resolved to deliberate with consumers and other stakeholders what unmetered customers should pay in the meantime.
Arigu said: “The proposing order is expected to be a ‘catalyst’ for the DisCos to accelerate or fast-track deployment of meters to unmetered customers.”
The commission, he said, will closely monitor the accelerated deployment of meters through MAP initiative.
He added that the MAP scheme is to tackle issues relating but not limited to adherence to timeline for replacement of faulty meters, timely metering of new connections and elimination of bulk billing /arbitrary billing.