•Abuja residents decry electricity tariff hike, worsening supply

From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

To say the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is facing one of its worst energy crises in history is putting it mildly. Amid blistering heat, residents’ woes are being compounded by near-zero electricity supply.

In addition, the tariff has been remarkably hiked. Residents are left to self-soothe as regulatory bodies and consumer protection agencies feign helplessness.

Residents described their plight as pathetic because they are literally paying heavily for darkness. Household utensils, especially refrigerators and air-conditioners, barely get sufficient power to preserve foods and drinks or cool homes.

Worse hit are those selling frozen poultry and ice cream. They now spend humongous sums of money to buy petrol or diesel at exorbitant prices to power their generators and preserve their wares.

Residents want relevant stakeholders in the electricity distribution chain to up their game and boost power supply. Their cries have reached a crescendo because there is no alternative to better power supply since the country is currently facing fuel and naira scarcity.

Added are poor Internet services and deficient mobile banking system.

Emmanuel Ujah, a resident of Karonmajigi village, Airport Road said:

“I recently observed that the amount of power units used to last for one month, barely sustains me for two weeks now. The meter runs like a sprinter as the electricity units vanish rapidly. I utilise up to 10 units in a day in a studio apartment with just one air-conditioner and refrigerator.

“Others are television and the pressing iron I use every Saturday. But the units keep dropping shockingly. The worst part is that the power is not even steady at all. And when supplied, it’s usually low voltage. Just about five hours a day. So, why pepper consumers with scathing tariffs? This is predatory. A very terrible situation.”

Mr Amos Dogo, a teacher living in Kubwa, a sprawling Abuja suburb said: “The units keep speedily. It ticks away every second. Scary.

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Before, N5,000 would give you over 100 units of electricity. Then it dropped to 90, then to 80. Now you can barely get up to 70 units for N5,000.

“Things are so hard, businesses have been affected by the naira scarcity. Yet, no fuel, the electricity is not steady yet they keep increasing the tariff. It is not fair at all. I do not know how they expect people to survive. I thought privatising the power sector would make it more efficient but it only made it worse.”

Residents on estimated billing are also not spared by the high tariffs. Miss Joy Kayode, a civil servant resides in Chika, another village along Airport Road, said: “We were shocked to see N30,000 electricity bill in January. There are just four rooms in the compound and even the N20,000 was a bill some of us contested and now this.

“To be clear, we don’t even own many appliances. We made an effort to ask the authorities why there had been a sharp increase, but they were unable to provide a convincing response. One can only wonder what the February bill would look like.

“Although the landlord claims to have since applied for a meter, it remains in the realm or promise. We have not received any. It’s really difficult to survive in times like this.”

Mr Fred Dickinson said: “The government and its agencies in charge of regulating the Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos), must come to the rescue of Nigerians. People shouldn’t just wake up and increase the price of essential commodities like that. It shouldn’t be permitted.

“There should be a procedure including letting consumers know ahead of time. There should be commensurate services to match the hiked tariff.

These service providers are actually driving Nigerians to the brink.

The consequences could be unpalatable if something is not done about it soon.”

President, Nigeria Consumer Protection Network (NCPN), Mr. Kunle Olubiyo, criticised the lack of consultations: “Nigerians and end users were forced to pay for chronic overiflated costs to the detriment of the populace and the economy as a whole. The impact of the recent crises in the energy market supply value chain and the recent increase in electricity tariff are quite huge.

“The Federal Government as a matter of urgency should address the energy market supply gaps in order not be left behind.”

Findings, however, showed that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had quietly given DisCos approval to increase tariffs by as much as 18.5 per cent, with effect from December 1, 2022, without informing Nigerians.  Electricity tariffs were reportedly increased around mid-December 2022.