Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday annulled the increment in electricity tariff announced by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
Justice Mohammed Idris, while delivering judgment in a suit filed by a human rights lawyer, Mr Toluwani Adebiyi, to challenge the increment, described NERC’s action as procedurally ultra vires, irrational, irregular and illegal.
The court relied on Sections 31, 32 and 76 of the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) 2005, in deciding the substantive suit held that, NERC acted outside the powers conferred on it by the Act and failed to follow the prescribed procedure.
“The court is also of the view that NERC has not shown that it acted in due obedience to the prescribed procedures and that there is no evidence that NERC complied with Section 76(6) (7)and (9) of the EPSRA Act, the Judge held.
“It is clear from the affidavit evidence that the increase in tariff was done by NERC in defiance of the order of this court made on May 28, 2015, which directed parties in the case to maintain the status quo,” the Judge further ruled..
Consequently, the court held that the tariff increase from July 1, 2015 was done in breach of the status quo order.
“NERC’s action, was therefore, clearly hasty, reckless and irresponsible. This country is in a democracy where the rule of law shall prevail over impunity or whimsical desires. Anything in the contrary will be an invitation to anarchy. It is the law that what is done officially must be done in accordance to the law. Investors are free to do business in Nigeria but they shall abide by the law of this country. Nigeria is not a kangaroo State. Nigeria is not a banana republic. It is intolerant and extremely dangerous for any branch of the Executive to create a posture it may not obey certain orders of the court. That is tantamount to Executive recklessness which will lead to lawlessness,” Justice Idris held.
“NERC is hereby directed to reverse to the status quo and the commission is hereby restrained from further increasing electricity tariff except it comply strictly with the relevant provisions of the EPSRA,” he ruled.
The sum of N50, 000 was awarded in favour of the plaintiff.
Adebiyi, in the substantive suit, had sought an order restraining NERC from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff without a meaningful and significant improvement in power supply at least for 18 hours in a day in most communities in Nigeria.
He also sought an order restraining NERC from foisting compulsory service charge on pre-paid meters not 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.