Fashola and power sector abracadabra
By Onike Rahaman
The announcement by the Federal Government to effect hike in electricity tariff by 45 percent could not have been defended by no other person than the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola.
By virtue of the position occupied by Mr Babatunde Fashola, it falls within the purview of his ministerial mandate to defend the policy decision.
By now, Fasola is expected to know better being a former governor of Lagos State, that good governance transcends policy abracadabra. Whatever might be the future benefits of the hike in the electricity tariff, it tends to put a lot of burden on the citizens.
Though, the Power Holdings Company of Nigeria, PHCN, has since wound up, the government still owes the nation the duty of protecting the citizens against extortion and exploitation by either indigenous or foreign Companies operating in the country.
The fact that the government only owns minority shares after the company had been privatized is not an acceptable excuse for an increase in tariff on electricity by 45 percent.
Even, with the taking over of the regulatory powers of the sectors by Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, the government still has enormous responsibility to ensure that the company charge fair tariff through legislative process or by allowing the National Assembly exercise its oversight functions in this regard.
I quite agree that there is near total collapse of infrastructural facilities and plants across the country which may require huge finance for it to be fixed, but the decadence does not provide enough justification for the outrageous hike in the electricity tariff.
It is disheartening that the government was trying to abdicate its responsibilities knowing fully well the direct impact of hike on civil populace.
Whatever the rationale behind the hike, the decision remains unpopular with public. More so, the epileptic power supply before the privatization of the power sector has not in any way improved.
Some industries in Nigeria are in a state of inertia as a result of poor supply of electricity which is critical factor for industrial growth and development of the nation.
The government cannot pretend not to be aware that an average household in the country is now being compelled to depend on generators to power their home appliances. It is unfortunate that this harsh policy measure of hiking the electricity tariff is being taken when government seems helpless amidst the daunting challenge of poor power supply to the citizens.
The argument raised by Mr Raji Fashola, that the power to unilaterally increase the tariff was vested in NERC may be true only by wordings of the Act establishing the Commission, but in reality the government apart from its share holding owes the nation the duty of curtailing the possible exploitation by the company.
Even the argument that the significant number of power plants depend on gas whose current price in the international market is considered another justification for the arbitrary hike in electricity tariff is still not tenable.
For the government to succeed in its transformational agenda, concerted efforts also need to be made to mitigate the adverse effects on the citizens otherwise the popularity and credibility of the government of the day and its major functionaries will be dwindling on daily basis.
Rahaman Onike, author, public administrator and policy analyst writes from Oyo, Oyo State.