Do you remember when it was announced earlier this year that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had approved permissions for the Disco’s was going to increase light tariffs on the 1st of April 2020? Scarcely anyone could have predicted that not only would the increase would be postponed, Discos would also be asked to delay on payments altogether as the country balled the Coronavirus pandemic. Three months have passed since restrictions were imposed on Nigerians and now that the country is slowly returning to a semblance of normalcy, the Disco’s are seeking to implement the tariff increase, much to the intense displeasure of the average Nigerian.
The ire of Nigerians have put the government in a precarious situation and in response the government have publicly sided with the citizens against the Distribution companies. Their complaints have ranged from the new tariffs being too expensive, the distribution companies not having any right to increase tariffs when the electricity situation in the country has not improved enough to warrant an increase and now the distribution companies are fighting back. They have announced that the NERC was well aware of and approved the decision to increase tariffs and the dates for introducing the new tariffs was also approved by the NERC.
The reality remains that Nigerians already pay very low prices electricity when compared to other countries. With minimal revenue, corruption and low maintenance culture, the only incentive private distribution companies have to improve service is to increase prices. The federal government understands this, which is probably why the increase in tariffs was approved. In some ways, because our government is democratic and must always be on the side of the citizens or risk being voted out, government is quick to backtrack on its decisions and seek scapegoats for its actions. The Disco’s suggest they are being scapegoated by the NERC, which needs to save face for the politicians who run it.
It is harder to argue that the Distribution companies are simply in it for the money, when they obeyed a government order to waive electricity tariffs during the worst of the pandemic. They intend to go ahead with the increases and unless the government pulls another stunt and coerces them into either stopping or delaying, we must all prepare ourselves to dig a little deeper into our pockets for this necessity.