Court Bars NERC From Raising Electricity Tariff

PENDING the hearing and determination of the suit against the June 1, 2015 scheduled increase in electricity tariff, a Federal High Court, Lagos, has restrained the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) from implementing the new payment plan.

In another instance, a Federal High Court, Lagos presided by Justice Chukwujeku Aneke has ruled as an abuse of court process a suit filed by some aggrieved subscribers challenging the recent 20 per cent increment on subscription rate for Digital Satellite Television (DStv) being operated by Multi-Choice Nigeria Limited.

It further ruled that since the plaintiffs were not under any obligation to continue subscribing to the services of Multi-Choice in the face of the increment, the suit disclosed no reasonable cause of action.

The subscribers, Osasuyi Adebayo and Oluyinka Oyeniji, who are also lawyers, had filed the class action on behalf of themselves and all other DStv subscribers across the country, seeking the court to restrain Multi-Choice from implementing the increment, which took effect April 1, 2015.

Ruling in an ex-parte application by a Lagos lawyer, Toluwani Adebiyi, Justice Mohammed Idris barred NERC and the electricity distribution companies from effecting any increment in tariff yet.

Adebiyi is seeking an order restraining the NERC from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff without a meaningful and significant improvement in power supply for at least 18 hours per day in most Nigerian communities.

He also wants NERC restrained from foisting compulsory service charge on pre-paid meters until “the meters are designed to read charges per second of consumption and not a flat rate of service not rendered or power not used.”

Among others, he also wants the service charge on pre-paid meters dropped enforced until there is visible efficient and reliable power supply like those of foreign countries where the idea of service charge was borrowed.

Arguing the ex-parte application in person, he urged the court to restrain NERC and the electricity distribution companies from foisting further hardship and unjustifiable tariff increment on Nigerians, as widely announced by the commission.

Justice Idris, after entertaining arguments from Adebiyi, ordered NERC to maintain status quo while the motion and other processes in the suit should be served on NERC, while the applicant has leave to serve the defendant in Abuja.

He then adjourned to June 11, 2015 for hearing. Multi-Choice, through its counsel, Moyosore Onigbanjo, had argued that the plaintiffs had no cause of action, and that a court has no power to regulate the price of services that a business offers to its customers.

The company further contended that neither the government nor the court could regulate prices in Nigeria, which operates a free market economy.

It noted that under its conditions or terms of agreement, especially clauses 40 and 41, it is at liberty to, from time to time, change the fees payable by subscribers for the services being offered by the company.

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