by Abang Dove
Last week, the power sector experienced the end of the contentious practice of bulk billing, due to the 8th Senate’s intervention in the affair. The practice of bulk billing, which is a status quo that has been maintained for several years, began the beginning of its end on Tuesday, August 11, 2015, when the Senate directed the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to immediately abolish fixed charges on electricity consumption, and the bulk marketing of villages and communities.
The Senate’s resolution/query to NERC, which was sponsored by Senator Sam Egwu of Ebonyi State, and Senator David Umaru of Niger East Senatorial District was titled; “Unfair trade practices of Electricity Distribution Companies in Nigeria.” The aim of the motion, which was backed by a majority of the members of the Upper Legislative Chambers, pressured NERC to explain the basis of Distribution Companies (DISCOs) estimating the electricity billing of customers, while still making payments for meter installation in their homes.
The Senate intervention in this issue has succeeded in eliminating one of the major challenges faced by millions of Nigerians. The Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, made a promise to Nigerians when he emerged the first amongst equals in the 8th Senate, that the 8th Assembly will be a different from the legislatures of the pasts – and so far, many Nigerians agree that he has been keeping to his word. Saraki’s leadership of the 8th Senate so far, despite the hiccups experienced at the beginning, have stirred up an Upper Legislative Chamber that is taking its oversight function seriously. This is the sort of leadership that Nigerians have hungered for since our return to democracy.
In line with the Senate’s motion, NERC, at a press briefing in Abuja on Monday 17, 2015, said that consumers who do not receive power supply will henceforth be exempted from paying the fixed charges; adding that power distribution companies have come into consensus to review the fixed charge policy. Also, to maintain its system of commitment to openness and accountability, NERC released a report on the Senate query stating that it supports the Senate’s decision to investigate the various projects and funding in the power sector since 1999. In this same report, The Commission agreed with the Senate’s position on the need to eliminate the practice of bulk billing residential customers and replace the practice with individual metering and billing.
Reacting to these developments on his official Twitter handle, the Senate President urged Nigerians to reach out to their Senators to report similar cases that needed legislative oversight due to unfair regulatory or trade practices.
“If there are similar cases like that of #Power,” Saraki said, “Kindly engage your Senators by bringing it to our attention so we can better represent you.”
In line with the Senate President’s appeal, as a subscriber of Multichoice’s monopolistic services for the past few years, the Senate should kindly look into DSTV – a company that has been sucking Nigerian customers dry for many years now with recent price hikes.
From what I have seen so far, I believe that the 8th Assembly will purge this country of service providers who are out to exploit citizens without rendering the deserved quality of services paid for. The 8th Senate is leading the actualization of a new Nigeria; I only hope that this is just the beginning…
Abang Dove writes from Abuja. She tweets [email protected]
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.