“We disagree with the plan; Nigerian power consumers have living in darkness. therefore, new electricity tariff now is unjustifiable and a draconian policy measure against the citizens who have been at the receiving end of uncertain and directionless economic backlash”

I t has been in the news that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has a plan to introduce a new electricity tariff increase beginning from next June month. Recall that since 2015, electricity tariff has been increased five times without any commensurate improvement in electricity supply in the country. This has been variously been underscored by credible organisations. For instance, there was a recent report by the World Bank (WB) that 78percent Nigerian electricity consumers get less than 12hours power supply, it is exploitative and cannot sustain the economic drive of the present administration. Why government officials are livid with the WB over the report, especially knowing the grim reality on ground, is baffling.

Or is Nigeria not one of the darkest, if not the darkest country on earth in terms of power poor power infrastructure and supply? According to the report, Nigeria businesses lose $29bn annually as a result of epileptic power supply. This was revealed last week Wednesday by Ashish Khanna, World Bank’s practice manager, West and Central Africa energy, while presenting WB’s Power Sector Recovery Program (PSRP) fact sheet under the theme ‘Fostering knowledge sharing and Dialogue on Power Sector Issues in Nigeria’ at the World Bank Dialogue with Energy Reporters in Abuja. Khanna stated that, “Businesses in Nigeria lose about $29bn annually because of unreliable electricity. Nigerian utilities get paid for only a half of electricity they receive”.

Continuing, he stated that, “For every N10 worth of electricity received by DisCos (distribution companies), about N2.60 is lost in poor distribution infrastructure and through power theft and another N3.40 is not being paid for by customers. “Six in 10 of registered customers are not metered, and their electricity bills are not transparent and clear. This contributes to resistance to pay electricity bills”, the WB manager stated adding that only 51 percent of installed capacity was available for generation. Electricity consumers in Nigeria are said to consume four times less energy than their counterparts in a typical lower middle-income country.

However, this report did not go down well with officials of the Nigerian government. The Special Adviser to the President on Infrastructure, Mr Ahmad Rufai Zakari, expressed doubts about the credibility of WB’s empirical evidence. “It is inaccurate to make a blanket statement that 78% of Nigerians have less than 12 hours daily access. The data from NERC is that 55% of citizens connected to the grid are in tariff bands D and E which are less than 12 hours supply. Those citizens are being fully subsidized to preSeptember 2020 tariffs until DIsCOs are able to improve supply”, he argued. He went on to add that the federal government has distributed more than 600k meters to DISCOs out of the 1 million and they are being installed in phases. It is a trite for Zakari to assume that because “All consumers have been communicated their bands and bands are published during billing. It is inconceivable that anyone would imply that 4 out of 5 Nigerians are not intelligent enough to understand tariff classes and what they are paying for”.

It is observable that the corruption in the power sector is sustained by official lies between government and power generation and distribution companies. There are places in the country, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja where electricity consumers who do not see power in days (not the so-called 12hours pay) still pay the new tariff. Can the Federal Ministry of Power, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and other parastatals under power administration publish a comprehensive amount of billions in budgetary allocations, grants and loans expended on electricity facilities and upgrading since 2015 till date and explain why Nigeria still in pitch darkness? There is no contrary report to contest the report of the WB.

In short, for many, the situation is grimmer than the Bank’s general conclusion. However, if the government does not believe in the credibility of the WB’s survey, we advise it to conduct its own survey under a transparent procedure and hear directly from Nigerian electricity consumers how they feel about the power situation in the country. Can government try that? We disagree with the plan; Nigerian power consumers have living in darkness. therefore, new electricity tariff now is unjustifiable and a draconian policy measure against the citizens who have been at the receiving end of uncertain and directionless economic backlash.

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