Electricity consumer protection groups on Tuesday advised the federal government against removing electricity subsidies so as not to create a rate hike.
Ms Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Fice, Budget and National Planning, revealed that the government was working to eliminate electricity subsidies to free up funds for other critical areas.
Opposing groups noted that the subsidy was a provision of the Electricity Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) of 2005.
They argued that the provision could not be removed by decree and without an amendment to the law by the National Assembly.
The groups, the Energy Consumer Rights and Responsibilities Initiative (ECRRI) and the All Electricity Consumers Protection Forum (AECPF), made their positions known during interviews with the Nigeria News Agency in Lagos.
Mr Adeola Samuel-Ilori, the national coordinator of AECPF, said that although the government did not provide for an electricity subsidy in the 2022 budget, this did not translate into its immediate withdrawal.
“The subsidy is provided for in EPSRA and the government cannot unilaterally remove it without going to the National Assembly for amendment.
“Unless this provision is removed from the law, the government cannot remove it,” he said.
Samuel-Ilori said the group would take legal action to protect consumers’ interests if the subsidy was halted.
“We have already filed a complaint against the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission regarding the implementation of the July 2021 minor revision of the Multi-Year Tariff Ordinance (MYTO-2020).
“The lawsuit has been filed with the Federal High Court in Ibadan to stop the continued implementation as it violates the provisions of Article 76 (1) of EPSRA,” he said.
For his part, Mr Surai Fadairo, national president of ECRRI, said that there would be a sharp increase in electricity tariffs if the government removed the subsidy.
Fadairo noted that electricity is a social service that helps the well-being of Nigerians in various ways, especially by providing opportunities for small business owners.
“With the recent review of MYTO, I can tell you that many consumers are struggling to cope with the increase and any further increase in tariffs will have a negative effect on the economy.
“We call on the government to properly assess the situation before taking action.
“It should also engage stakeholders and civil society organizations in the electricity sector to determine how the sector can be repositioned to be more efficient along its value chain,” said Fadairo. (NAN)