? By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Miss. Asabe Abdulsallami [names not real] is a 26 year old graduate of industrial chemistry from one of the upscale privately run Universities owned by one of the very flourishing Pentecostal Churches. She recently graduated in flying colors and served in one of the most high profile federal government agencies and upon completion of her compulsory one year national service with the National Youth service Corp [NYSC] she was retained on merit as a full time staff even as she is now staying in a two -bed room apartment in Maitama after her very successful industrialist father rented the highly expensive accommodation for her.

Although surrounded by opulence, the beautiful Miss. Asabe has a big problem staring her in her innocent eyes since she still has a major infrastructural crisis in her residence to contend with which has to do with the general situation of epileptic electricity power supply, a problem that afflicts all segments of the society but severely faced by the very poor who reside in the many derelict and grossly under-developed rural areas across the country.

One day this writer engaged her in a meaningful dialogue regarding the state of poor electricity supply and she lamented that although she has seen little improvement in the supply of electricity in Abuja but the issue of exorbitant tariff charged for this services by the Distribution Services Companies known now in the common parlance of DISCO has become a fundamental burden to the generality of Nigerians.

She is of the opinion which most Nigerians share that it will be more logical for the nation?s policy makers to improve the quality and scope of distribution of electricity power in all parts of the Country before playing around with the idea of increasing the tariff charged. Asabe told me in philosophical terms that the argument by the National Electricity Regulatory Commission [NERC] that increasing the tariff to be charged for electricity supply is key to attracting the much needed foreign investments in the electricity sector amounted to ?putting the cart before the horse? or to similarly argue that ?the egg comes before the chicken?.

I have therefore decided to intervene in this raging debate to present all sides of the arguments for purposes of clarity and for Nigerians to decide what is best for us as a nation that has perpetually remained in total electricity darkness while other nations even in Africa [South Africa] have gone far.

The Chairman of NERC, the urbane and US -trained lawyer Dr. Sam Amadi has demonstrated more than enough evidence as one public officer who is constantly on the side of the people and who believes that only the best decisions that serve the public interest should be implemented.

In the next couple of weeks I will dedicate my column to this debate. I am aware that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission ? NERC has issued a 14-day ultimatum to electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) that are in violation of its Order to submit a list of all customers who paid for meters since January 2011, and commence metering them with immediate effect.

?Any DISCO that does not comply with this new directive will be barred from collecting the new electricity tariff?, Chairman/CEO NERC ? Dr. Sam Amadi says.

In a letter dated 19th July, the Commission expressed its utter dismay that all DISCOs have been in complete violation of the order as it relates to customers who have made payments within the given time frame, and have not been identified for immediate metering.

?NERC views this conduct as totally unresponsive, and undermining the effort of the reform?.

Recall that NERC had earlier in the year issued an Order on CAPMI ? Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation. CAPMI was a response by the regulator to address the lingering issue of non-issuance of meters by the electricity companies. CAPMI allows for any interested and willing customer to advance money to their electricity distribution company and in return will be given electricity credit until the cost of the meter has been recovered by the customer.

The CAPMI Order, amongst other things, stipulated that all distribution companies forward to NERC data of all customers who paid for meters but had not been supplied.

It can be recalled that in 2011, a N2.9billion metering intervention fund was made available to the companies with a view to closing the unacceptable metering gap. One year after, no appreciable progress was made by the companies, and this compelled NERC to demand for performance reports from the DISCOs. Eight of the twelve DISCOs submitted reports that fell far short of the requirements of NERC. The rest did not submit any report of how they spent the money.

Even the most hardened opponent of this government will agree that NERC has started a radical revolution that is unprecedented in the political annals of Nigeria.

The DISCOs were further warned that failure to comply with the 14-day ultimatum would also compel the Commission to institute enforcement procedures that may result in the removal of a Chief Executive Officer of an electricity distribution company.

This is indeed cheering to the public ear.

+Emmanuel Onwubiko writes from Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria; Abuja. http://www.huriwa.blogspot.com/; http://www.huriwa.org/.

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