A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday declared the increment in electricity tariff announced by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) as null and void.
Justice Mohammed Idris stated this while delivering judgement in a suit filed by a lawyer, Mr. Toluwani Yemi Adebiyi challenging the increment.
The court described NERC’s action as procedurally ultra vires, irrational, irregular and illegal.
The court held that NERC acted outside the powers conferred on it by the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) 2005 Act, and failed to follow stipulated rules and regulations.
The court further held that “of all the legal requirements, it appeared the only one complied with by NERC was that it announced the new tariff in the newspapers.”
The court further held that, “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”.
Consequently, the court held that,” the tariff increase from July 1, 2015 was done in breach of the ‘status quo’ order. NERC’s action is clearly hasty, reckless and irresponsible”.
“This country is in a democracy where the rule of law shall prevail over impunity or whimsical desires. Anything to 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 intolerance 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.
In view of these, the court while invoking its disciplinary jurisdiction, made the following orders: “the increment in electricity tariff which took effect after the institution of this action and while a restraining order is subsisting is hereby declared illegal and same is hereby set aside.
‘’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’’.
The sum of N50, 000 was awarded in favour of the plaintiff.
The court had earlier held that it indeed has the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
Adebiyi, in the substantive suit, is seeking 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 wants 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.”