***There should be no increase at all – MAN
Stakeholders have commended the Federal Government for the temporary suspension of the 100 percent increase in electricity tariff till the first quarter of next year.
Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman, had on June 15 announced that electricity consumers would pay more as power distribution companies (DISCOS) had been given the nod to increase tariffs from July 1.
However, the leadership of the National Assembly waded into the planned hike and after separate meetings with President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo agreed that the price hike be deferred till the first quarter of 2021. The executive and legislature while agreeing on the need to allow DISCOs hike tariffs, however, faulted the timing of the policy given the impact of COVID-19 on incomes of Nigerians.
Chief Operating Officer of WestAfricanENRG, Lolade Oresanwo, in an interview with Daily Sun, lauded the government for the deferment describing its as a welcome development.
She said it was important to work towards the resuscitation of the economy that had been battered by COVID-19 before increasing electricity tariffs. According to her, it was wrong to increase electricity tariff amid insecurity, high cost of transportation, poverty, and scarcity of food occasioned by the pandemic and at a time when businesses were struggling to cope with increased value added tax (VAT).
“The government needs to create jobs for millions of unemployed Nigerians so that all can be able to meet up with future demands, low income earners who cannot afford all the necessities might find it difficult to cope with telectricity price increase going by the current situation. Citizens need decent employment to meet up with daily demands and responsibilities. For individuals who earn N30,000 to N50,000 monthly, how can they afford the high electricity bills.?”
On the other hand, she affirmed that industries might cope with the increase if only electricity could be provided for 24 hours to save them the cost of running on diesel generators.
General Manager, Ornua Nigeria, Tunde Afolabi, commended the National Assembly for wading into the matter, saying the deferment would, at least, allow for time and prepare the minds of the citizens for the increase next year.
“Those of us in manufacturing sector increase our prices from time to time. We cannot stop price change;if we stop it today, it will still come someday. The deferment of the hike in electricity tariff is a good development. It shows that government listens to the cry of citizens. It shows there is hope for citizens,” he said.
Afolabi said if the the increase took effect on July 1 as proposed, it would have added to the other economic challenges in the country.
Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) said the postponement of electricity tariff hike was a good step, but called for a complete cessation in the implementation of the policy as the country already had a 10-year tariff plan which would end in 2024.
MAN acting Director General, Ambrose Oruche, who explained that members had focused on the already released 10-year tariff plan, noted that to suddenly increase tariff by DISCOS, would throw most of the manufacturers off balance, “knowing we have not even come out of COVID -19 experience.”
“We were given a tariff plan of 10 years, our members have focused on planning with the old tariff, for you to suddenly adjust it now within months, it will throw everybody off balance,” he said.
Oruche said the timing of the planned hike was wrong, owing to negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said there was the need for the procurement of needed equipment that would reflect on the electricity tariff. He said customers needed to be metered and more investments donein power sector infrastructure to boost generation and supplies if there must be an increase in tariff.
“Fundamentals have not been settled at all. Customers have not been metered and no supply yet, so how can we justify the increase?” he queried.