OrderPaperToday- Ongoing negotiations over the recent 45% increment of electricity tariff, between the leadership of the Senate and the Federal Government have failed.

Unable to strike a compromise, the Senate today mandated the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to halt further implementation of the new electricity tariff till further notice, pending when public hearings will be conducted by the relevant committees.

The motion to suspend the implementation of the new tariff which came under Matter of National Importance, was moved by Suleiman Nazif (APC, Bauchi). He argued that considering the biting economic hardship, it was unrealistic to increase electricity tariffs.

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Supporting the motion, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, said Nigerians were already on life support. He urged his colleagues to reject the new increment and stand with Nigerians.

“As Nigerians, we are now on life support. This increase is evil and we must as a Senate ensure that we insist on the reversal of this increment. There is already poverty and hardship. Any additional load on Nigerians means we do not want them to be alive. We must be able to ensure that their welfare is protected,” Ekweremadu said.

Albert Bassey from Akwa Ibom State also supported the move.
He said: “I want to join the Labour unions for protesting. This Senate must take a stand to protect the interest of Nigerians. How can anyone increase the tariff when things are high? Why will a government agency do that? We need to be firm.”

In his contribution, Dino Melaye urged lawmakers to beyond the suspension of the new tariff regime. He said there was need to call on electricity generation and distribution companies to pay back loans they obtained from the federal government to get metres for their customers.

He said: “This increase makes it the fourth time that electricity tariffs will be up after the privatization of the power sector. Their excuse has always been that they want to improve on the electricity. There was a time that the government gave loans to distribution and generation companies to buy metres and give to customers. They are yet to pay back that loan.

“We need to take a stand and mandate the government to reduce the tariffs. There was no negotiation with the Senate or the Labour. They arbitrarily increased the tariffs and expect us not to talk.”

Thereafter, the Senate President Saraki mandated the Committees on Labour and Power to meet with the relevant agencies of government and find a lasting solution. He further mandated the two committees to conduct public hearings.

“NERC should forthwith suspend the implementation of the new tariff. I believe that when we have a public hearing, these issues will be addressed. Until then, the new regime stands suspended,” Saraki declared.

Discreet negotiation which was initiated by the leadership of the Senate was held last week Thursday at the office of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.

The meeting had in attendance, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, as well as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige. The meeting was also attended by some principal officers of the Senate.

Another meeting was scheduled to hold this week, following the inability of the two parties to find a common ground. Daily Sun gathered that, while Saraki wanted the new regime suspended, pending when proper negotiations will be held, Fashola and Ngige on the other hand, insisted on the retention of the tariffs, while negotiations were ongoing.

Recall that labour unions held mass protests across the country to protest the new electricity tariff. Major cities, including Abuja were grounded for several hours.

After the protests which lasted for several hours, a 7-day ultimatum was issued by labour unions. Labour unions warned that if the new tariff was not reversed, they were going to embark on a nationwide strike.

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