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COVID-19: NERC Suspends Electricity Tariff Hike

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Following pressures being mounted by the public, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), yesterday, announced the suspension of electricity tariff hike expected to commence on April 1, 2020 to next three months, June 30, 2020.
NERC, in an Order on the transition to cost reflective tariffs in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) tagged /198/2020, signed by the NERC Chairman, Prof. James Momoh, and the NERC Commissioner for Legal, Licencing and Compliance, Dafe Akpeneye, yesterday, said it was due to global effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on the average Nigerian.
“There shall be no increase in tariffs of end-use customers on April 1, 2020. This Order shall take effect from April 1, 2020 and shall cease to have effect on the issuance of a new Order by the NERC.”
The commission, which had planned the hike from today, said it is aware of the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy and its impact on the average Nigerian.
It noted that the previous Order on the December, 2019 minor review of the Multi Year Tariff Order (MYTO) 2015 and the Minimum Remittance Order (MRO) for 2020 “shall remain in force until June 30, 2020 when a new MRO shall be issued.”
NERC said the 11 DISCs submitted their Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) and also filed applications for an extraordinary tariff review with public hearings held from February 25 to March 9 for the DISCOs.
There was also a hearing on providing tariff for ancillary services for the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) on the national grid.
NERC said the stakeholders’ views show consumers are willing to pay appropriate rates for services rendered by the DisCos but must be of quality and with adequate metering.
It also said the COVID-19 pandemic has obstructed importation of components for local meter assembly to supply consumers under the Meter Assets Provider (MAP) Regulation, and that it was discussing with MAP and DISCOs to review the expectations.
NERC then gave the DISCOs 21 days from today, to submit new PIPs on how they can recover their costs prudently with marginal profit by June 30, 2021 especially on how customers will be guaranteed improved services.
The DISCOs were also directed to provide smart meters for their 11 kilovolts (kV) and 33kV feeders by June 30, 2020 so they can send real time data to the Commission.
Earlier, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had condemned and totally rejected any plan to inflict further pains on Nigerians by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
The NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, in a statement, yesterday, said that such action would only add more pains to Nigerians as the country tackles the dreaded Coronavirus disease.
Wabba bemoaned that while other countries are battling the COVID-19 pandemic and expanding social welfare and putting in place economic stimulus, including distribution of free foods, free healthcare services, sanitary kits, utility bills reduction, debt moratorium, and cash support to insulate their citizens from the harsh realities of the fight against the novel Coronavirus, “our own case in Nigeria cannot be different,” he added.
He further noted that “the concerns in the public domain are not helped by reports that the NERC has not issued any reversal order to Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) on the planned tariff increase in power utility.
“The leaders of our affiliate unions were unanimous in rejecting the planned increase in electricity tariff during our recent interactive session with NERC in Kano,” he added.
He stressed that “any increase in electricity tariff would only convey a deafening expression of insensitivity to the plight of the Nigerian people who are currently dealing with the social scare, income hemorrhage, economic squeeze and mortal dread of COVID-19.”
He noted that this is the right time to show Nigerians that their lives matters.
He added that “If there is any time to show that the very essence of government is the security and welfare of citizens, it is now.”
While he noted that Nigerian workers find tremendous succour in the altruism shared by President Muhammadu Buhari in his address, he said, “we urge the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission not to embark on any fruitless adventure that would cast aspersion on the good intentions of Mr. President.”

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Ogoni Youths Give FG 14 Days To Fix East-West Road

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No fewer than 400 youths under the aegis of Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), yesterday, staged a peaceful protest at the Eleme axis of the East-West Road, giving the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to mobilize to site and fix the road or have economic activities in the area grounded.
The protesters, who carried various placards with inscriptions to press home their demands, trekked from Akpajo Junction to Refinery Junction in Eleme LGA, chanting solidarity songs to register their discontent over the neglect of the road.
Addressing newsmen during the protest, President General of the Ogoni Youth Federation, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, said it was regrettable that the road, which was a major route to the economic hub of the nation, has remained in a deplorable state, only becoming a death trap that has terminated the lives of innocent Ogonis.
Yaamabana, who described the mass action of the youths as a ‘warning protest’, said if the contractors handling the road were not immediately mobilized to site, then, the youths will have no option than to shut down all economic activities in the area.
He said, “we cannot continue to watch our people being killed on daily basis by tankers because of the poor state of Eleme axis of the east west road, we are calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency fix the road and save our people from untimely deaths as a result of the sorry state of the road, the only bridge on the road at Aleto has collapse but nothing is being done to avert the disasters faced by our people daily”.
Yaamabana also called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission to address the development needs of the Niger Delta region, noting that the use of interim management for NDDC was “diversionary, self serving and not in the interest of the development of the Niger Delta region”.
The OYF president general also called on the Federal Government to exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots who were extra-judicially murdered by the late Gen Sani Abacha military junta, and given post-humours honour as martyrs of democracy in Nigeria, while the ideals of justice they stood for should be upheld.
Also speaking, the immediate past secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eastern Zone, Comrade James Tobin, who joined the protest in solidarity, decried the neglect of the East—West Road by the Federal Government, and called the immediate fixing of the road to save the teeming road users from untold pains and death.

By: Taneh Beemene

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Rising Prices Push 7m Nigerians Below Poverty Line -World Bank

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The World Bank has said that rising prices pushed about seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020.
This was contained in a press statement titled, ‘Critical reforms needed to reduce inflation and accelerate the recovery, says new World Bank report,’ released by the World Bank’s Senior External Affairs Officer of Nigeria, Mansir Nasir.
The press statement was released, yesterday, in line with the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update.
It was acknowledged that the Federal Government “took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession” but it was recommended that certain policies should be set for a strong recovery.”
The statement read, “The NDU, titled ‘Resilience through Reforms,’ notes that in 2020, the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8 per cent than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2 per cent). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households.
“As of April, 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.”
Quoted in the statement, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, identified some of the challenges faced by the country and recommended a way forward.
“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity.
“While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realise its development potential,” Chaudhuri said.
Also quoted is the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the NDU, Marco Hernandez, who also gave a recommendation.
“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery,” Hernandez said.

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Inflation Dips To 17.93% In May, NBS Confirms

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Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped to 17.93 per cent in May, 2021, from 18.12 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed this in its monthly Consumer Price Index report released, yesterday.
The drop in the headline inflation in May was the second consecutive month this year.
The report indicates that the consumer price index (CPI), which measures the inflation rate increased by 17.93 per cent (year-on-year) in May, 2021, which is 0.19 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in the preceding month.
According to NBS, food inflation dropped in the same month from 22.78 per cent recorded in April, 2021 to 22.28 per cent in May, 2021.
The report reads, ‘‘All items less farm produce which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 13.15 per cent in May, 2021, up by 0.41 per cent when compared with 12.74 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
‘‘The highest increases were recorded in prices of pharmaceutical products, garments, shoes and other footwear, hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishments, furniture and furnishing, carpet and other floor covering.
‘‘Others include, motor cars, Hospital services, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing.
“Other services include personal transport equipment, gas, household textile, and non-durable household goods,” the NBS added.

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