The Coalition for Affordable and Regular Electricity (CARE) has thrown its weight behind the proposed bill by the House of Representatives to criminalise estimated electricity and vowed to collaborate with other pro-people organisations to mobilise Nigerian electricity consumers to resist any illegal disconnection of unmetered consumers and hike in tariffs.
In a statement signed by the CARE's Coordinator, Chinedu Bosah and Secretary, Monsuru Shoyombo, the group said it was not surprising when the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and a Commissioner in the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Mr. Dafe Akpeneye, opposed the proposed bill at the public hearing at the National Assembly on June 5, 2018.
While the group noted that the opposition against the bill by the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributor (ANED) was for selfish reasons, the group argued that the position of Fashola and Dafe has shown clearly that the federal government is in an unholy alliance with the Distribution Companies (Discos) to continue the robbery of electricity consumers through fraudulent estimated billing.
According to CARE, the capitalist state that claims to be the regulator is obviously partisan and biased against the working masses because of their class interest towards profiteering.
"The federal government through Fashola and NERC as well as ANED brazenly threatened Nigerians in their submissions. Fashola claimed that criminalising the estimated billing would destroy the entire power sector; Akpeneye claimed that 50 per cent of electricity consumers would be disconnected; ANED said that the Distribution Companies (DISCOs) would disconnect consumers who had no meters in a bid to escape punishment over estimated billing."
It added: "Is it not an insult for the DISCOs/ANED to threaten to disconnect unmetered consumers when it got over N200 billion of public funds as bailout and failed to remit a single kobo to public coffers considering the fact that the public has at least 40 per cent interest in the power companies? The same power companies are owing government (the public) a whooping N500 billion," the group explained.
"It also shows where the loyalty of our elected representatives' lie and the enormous power and influence DISCOs now wield over the Ministry of power and NERC thus undermining their ability to carry out its oversight functions on the sector. Otherwise NERC and the Ministry of Power are the recognised entities administering the power sector. They have enormous powers to regulate up to the point of sanctioning and disengaging any Discos which violates the law or shortchanges Nigerians. Indeed going by the contract for the privatisation of the power sector, all Discos were meant to have facilitated the metering of all electricity within 18 months failing which they would be sanctioned. That this has not being done without consequence and that a bill meant to begin to take the Discos to account over their mindless extortion of electricity consumers is being opposed by the Minister of Power and NERC is a testament to the creeping domination and takeover of the government by private interest," CARE added.
In responding to what CARE called the threat and possible sabotage, the groupd called on other pro-people organisations, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), United Labour Congress (ULC) Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Community Development Associations (CDAs), Joint Action Front (JAF) to join forces to resist the continued unjust billing of electricity consumers based on estimation, struggle for issuance of prepaid meters to all and for uninterrupted/affordable electricity to all Nigerians.
"This is possible when privatisation is reversed, massive investment in the power sector and democratic planning of resources to meet the electricity needs of all. Placing electricity, which is one of the major sector of the economy in the hands of the private companies is a violation of Chapter 2 (Section 16) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) that mandates the major sectors of the economy to be publicly owned to avoid undermining of public interest and to shun concentration of too much wealth or the major means of production and exchange in the hands of few people.