By Tanko Mohammed
The leadership of the National Assembly have convinced the Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) to defer the planned hike in electricity tariff till the first quarter of 2021.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan made this known in a statement on behalf of the leadership in Abuja.
The statement by Mr Ola Awoniyi, Special Adviser (Media) to Lawan said the lawmakers waded into the controversy due to the planned hike in electricity tariffs from July 1.
Lawan said that Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and other principal officers of the two Chambers met with the Chief Executives of the government electricity regulatory body and DISCOs across the country.
“The National Assembly leaders were emphatic at the meeting that the timing of the planned hike is wrong, even though they had not much issue in introducing a cost reflective tariffs for the power sector to attract the much needed investment.
“The agreement here is that there is not going to be any increase in the tariffs on July 1. The speaker and I, we are going to take appropriate action and meet with President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We are in agreement here that there is no question on the justification of the increase but the time is simply not right and appropriate measures need to be put in place
“So, between now and the first quarter of next year, our task will be to work together to ensure that we put those blocks in place to support the eventual increase in tariffs,” he said.
Lawan said that government had been doing a lot as part of its obligations to provide some form of intervention.
“I’m quite aware that for this year, probably starting from last year, over N600 billion was earmarked for this sector to improve.
“The potential increase in the tariffs is definitely something that will be of concern to the National Assembly.
“There is too much stress in the lives of Nigerians and indeed across the world because of the challenges imposed by COVID-19 pandemic.
”Before then, we had issues that will always make it tough for people to effectively pay the tariffs.
“One way or the other, for this business to flourish, for this sector to be appropriately fixed, for it to attract investment, something has to give way.
”There is no doubt about that but it is also crucial that we look at the timing for any of our actions,” Lawan said.
Similarly, Gbajabiamila said that NASS was on the same page with the DISCOs on the issue of cost reflective tariffs.
“There is time for everything. A well intended programme or policy of government can fall flat on the face and never recover if you do it at a wrong time. I think we all agree to that.
“There cannot be a time as bad as this for us to increase anything. Forget about electricity.
“Whereas, even in time of decreasing revenue, we are reducing the pump price. I don’t know how we can justify an increase in the cost of electricity at this time in Nigeria.
“The good things is that we have agreed that we need to do something about the cost,” he said.