A Federal High Court in Lagos has annulled the hike in electricity tariffs announced by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in 2015.
In his judgement on Wednesday, July 13, the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, described the increase as procedurally ultra vires, irrational, irregular and illegal.
A human rights lawyer, Mr. Toluwani Yemi Adebiyi, had filed a suit to challenge the hike in electricity tariffs as announced by NERC last year, arguing that it is pointless to increase prices when there was no commensurate increase in power supply.
Relying on Sections 31, 32 and 76 of the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA), Justice Idris, in deciding the substantive suit, held that “NERC acted outside the powers conferred on it by the Act and failed to follow the prescribed procedure.”
It further held that NERC only complied with one, of all the legal requirements, which was that it announced the new tariffs in the newspapers.
Justice Idris thereby ordered NERC to, with immediate effect, revert to the initial tariff.
He also restrained the commission from taking further steps in increasing electricity tariffs except it complies strictly with the relevant provisions of the EPSRA.
The court said: “It is clear from the affidavit evidence that the increase in tariffs was done by NERC in defiance of the order of this court made on May 28, 2015 which directed parties in the case to maintain the status quo.
“The law is that every person upon whom an order is made by a court of competent jurisdiction must obey it, unless and until the order is discharged and set aside at the appeal.
“This country is in a democracy where the rule of law shall prevail over impunity or whimsical desires. Anything to the contrary will be an invitation to anarchy.
“It is the law that what is done officially must be done in accordance to the law. Investors are free to do business in Nigeria but they shall abide by the law of this country.
“Nigeria is not a kangaroo state. Nigeria is not a banana republic. It is intolerance and extremely dangerous for any branch of the executive to create a posture that it may not obey certain orders of the court. That is tantamount to executive recklessness which will lead to lawlessness.”
The court said the increase, which was from July 1, 2015 was done in breach of the “status quo” order, describing NERC’s action as hasty, reckless and irresponsible.