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 scheduled to kick off 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: “ 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. 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”, he said.
“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, for the betterment all. They are businessmen (DISCOS) and cannot be undercutting themselves.
Also speaking, President of the Senate Mr Ahmad Lawan said the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted negatively on the lives of Nigerians.“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.
“Hovernment is doing a lot in this respect but we believe that DISCOS should meet with consumers, find better cost effective tariff. 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. So let the billing be scientifically based, it has to be based on what you actually consume.
“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 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 is necessary for us to do as part of our agreement with them must be done”, the Senate President said.