COURT NULLIFIES TARIFF HIKE
COURT NULLIFIES TARIFF HIKE
Time to Consolidate the Mass Struggle for Reversal of Power Privatisation and End “Crazy” Billing
Justice Idris Muhammed of the Federal High Court, Lagos, has nullified the exploitative electricity tariff hike in a landmark judgment delivered on July 13, 2016; variously describing the tariff hike as reckless, criminal, illegal and irresponsible. This judgment is a victory for the working people who have been protesting the 45% tariff hike as well as crazy billing and the incessant power cut that has now become aggravated since the privatization of the power sector.
The matter was filed in May 2015 by Mr. Toluwani Adebiyi to challenge the illegality of the hike. For over one year, members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) gave support to the matter in court, mobilized community people to most court sittings in solidarity with the matter and led campaigns in some local governments in Lagos.
It would be recalled that Justice Idris, granted an order restraining the distribution companies from increasing electricity tariff in May 2015. Perhaps, pre-empting what the judgment of the court would be, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the distribution companies proceeded to the Court of Appeal to challenge the order wherein they sought for a stay of proceedings. However, at the mention of the appeal on June 27, 2016, the Court of Appeal held that there is no pending appeal upon which the court can stay the proceedings at the Federal High Court as the records of appeal have not been compiled by the appellants. The proceedings at the Court of Appeal have been adjourned to November 11, 2016.
Despite the order restraining them, the power companies with the backing of the federal government recklessly hiked tariff on February 1, 2016 in violation of the order. In the same vein, the power companies and the government should be expected to do everything possible to undermine the judgment including exploiting the many loopholes in the bourgeois judicial system. For instance, the power companies and NERC may go on a very lengthy appeal while violation of the order and judgment continues. Hence, the working masses and poor should do everything possible to enforce the judgment through mass actions by insisting on reversal of the tariff to the old tariff as well as other demands for improvement of power supply, refund of every kobo which is the difference between the old tariff and the new tariff to every consumer who had paid the new rate, issuance of pre-paid meters etc.
On March 9, 2016, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joint Action Front (JAF) led a nationwide protest against electricity tariff hike. So far, many community organizations participated in the campaigns at different levels. The NLC and TUC must step in to mobilise the working people for the enforcement of the judgment across the federation through different form of mass action should the power companies fail to revert to the old tariff.
It is also necessary to restate the fact that the failure of the private power generation and distribution companies is a validation of the position of DSM that the privatization would spell more doom for the sector.
It would be necessary to link the struggle against the electricity tariff hike, epileptic power supply and undeserved electricity billing popularly known as ‘crazy bills’ to the struggle for the reversal of the privatization of the power sector and renationalization under the democratic control of the elected representatives of the workers, trade unions, electricity consumers and other stakeholders. This is the only way to ensure transparency in the management of the industry as well as efficiency in delivery of service.