Strong indications have emerged that the February 1, 2016 take-off date set by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, for the implementation of the new electricity tariff may be shifted to a later day.
The shift was partly caused by the sustained opposition to the tariff hike by the House of Representatives as well as the expiration of the tenure of office of the Chairman of NERC and other commissioners shortly after the approval of the new tariff regime.
ThisDay gathered from sources within NERC that with the position of the lawmakers, coupled with the expiration of the tenure of office of the officers in charge of the regulatory agency, it will be difficult for the career staff of the commission to resist the law makers and defend the new price regime.
It would be recalled that the Lower Chamber of the National Assembly had resolved that NERC should not embark on any upward review of tariff, until it concluded its probe of the power sector, particularly the privatisation programme.
But, the regulator apparently ignored the resolution and went ahead to announce an upward review of the tariff by 45 per cent.
A NERC officials explained to the newspaper that “The House is vehemently opposed to the increase and saw it as an affront to the legislature because it violated their earlier resolution. They now want to deploy all their legislative fireworks against the commission to frustrate the increase. I doubt if our career staff can face any political intrigue and defend the new price.
So, at best, the implementation can wait until the agency settles with the House or a new chairman and other commissioners are appointed to take up the matter with their fellow politicians in the legislature.”
It was learnt that in as much as the price hike was a business decision, it also has political implications which could be better defended by officers, whose appointments are also political.
Another source, who insisted that the increase was purely a business decision devoid of political considerations, noted that since the issue affected the masses, political implications could not be ruled out, adding that “Many factors –both internal and external-were considered before arriving at the new tariff and there was no political consideration, whatsoever.
“Some of the factors include cost of production of electricity, efficiency of the distribution company, cost of foreign exchange and cost of gas. So, there was no political consideration but purely business decision.”
The insider noted that when the lawmakers see all the variables that necessitated the hike, they will see things from the point of view of the commission.
“But how soon the House will sit with competent representatives of the commission to settle the rift is not certain and this may delay the implementation of the new tariff,” he said.