Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Goodluck Jonathan urging him to “use his leadership and position to urgently instruct the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to reverse the new electricity tariff as it is manifestly arbitrary, unfair, unjust and discriminatory.”
In the letter dated 2 August 2013 and signed by SERAP Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni the organization said that, “We are seriously concerned about the increased electricity tariff by your government under the Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO), and consider this increase as anti-people and a flagrant violation of the human rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized sector of the population.”
The organization said that its “requests are entirely consistent with the country international human rights obligations and commitments,” and threatened “international and national legal actions if the government fails and or neglects to reverse the increase within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”
The organization also stated that it would “work with civil society, social movements and community organisations and the citizens to challenge this manifestly unlawful action by the government.”
“Increasing electricity tariff by over 100% at a time power supply has not improved and indeed remains irregular and despite this government’s oft-expressed commitment to improve electricity supply, is anti-people. The much promised transformation of the power sector by the government has remained unfulfilled while the majority of the citizens continue to face extreme poverty. Rather than arbitrarily increasing electricity tariffs, the government should investigate the spending of about $3.5 billion annually on power in the last 10 years, and bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible for the stealing or mismanagement of public funds,” the organization stated.
The organization also said that, “Despite this huge spending, existing electricity infrastructure is epileptic, and lack of maintenance culture precipitated by greed and official corruption at the highest level of government have contributed to the poor electricity services in the country. The failure of the government to effectively tackle corruption in the power sector is further illustrated by the lack of political will to prosecute those responsible for the theft of $16 billion meant for the power projects, as revealed by the report by the National Assembly.”
“Basically, the vulnerable sector of the population is being made to pay for the unresolved corruption in the power sector. The increase will limit the access of the poor to regular electricity as they will be unable to pay the new tariff. SERAP is seriously concerned that the new electricity tariffs will push millions of Nigerians deeper into poverty while they continue to be denied access to reliable and uninterrupted electricity services,” the organization said.
According to the organization, “The government has a responsibility to ensure that electricity services are progressively made available, on the basis of equality and non-discrimination, to the whole population, including those most disadvantaged, such as the fringe dwellers and the rural poor. Therefore, the new increased electricity tariff constitutes a lack of due diligence and bad faith of the government to meet Nigeria’s international legal obligations to achieve the minimum core contents of internationally recognized economic and social rights, including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”
“Furthermore, although the Constitution does not grant an explicit legal right to electricity, the right to equality would dictate that at least it should be supplied equitably and in a non-discriminatory manner. This also implies an obligation by the government to assess the human rights impact of the new electricity tariff on consumers, especially poor consumers,” the organization argued.
According to the organization, “the government cannot use the ‘privatization’ of the power sector as excuse for this discriminatory increase. At any rate, under international law, both the process and the implementation of privatisation should be consistent with human rights. Therefore, the government is not relieved of its human rights responsibilities by privatising the provision of basic services such as electricity.”
The organization therefore urged President Jonathan “to use your leadership and position to reverse the arbitrary, unfair, unjust and discriminatory new electricity tariff. We also urge you to ask appropriate anticorruption agencies to urgently investigate allegations of corruption in the power sector and to bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible. We call on you to carry out a human rights assessment of the new electricity tariff to ensure full compliance with the country’s legal obligations.”
The organization said that, “Lack of access to uninterrupted electricity services has forced many citizens to use and collect frequently contaminated surface water for drinking and household uses; and denied the citizens the ability and services for boiling, purifying, disinfecting, and storing water, as well as for irrigation to increase the productivity of lands, thereby decreasing the availability of food supplies. We consider citizens’ access to uninterrupted supply of electricity a basic human right, which is necessary for the enjoyment of other human rights such as healthcare, adequate housing and quality education.”
“Haphazard, unreliable and interrupted electricity services to millions of Nigerians will continue to deprive them resources, capabilities, choices, security and power necessary for the enjoyment of legally recognized economic, social and cultural rights. Without access to improved quality and quantity of electricity services, Nigeria cannot achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; reducing child mortality; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases,” the organization added.
The organization noted that, “this government has recently confirmed that as many as 120 million Nigerians are currently without electricity. But under the MYTO regime, there would be increases in electricity tariff every year till 2016. The tariff schedule showed that the fixed cost will go up every year. The energy cost or cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity will also increase. The increase means that electricity consumers would pay between N700 and N800 monthly – up from N500 – regardless of whether they make use of electricity for the period or not. Our investigations reveal that this increase is preparatory to the privatisation of 18 state-run power generation, distribution and transmission companies later this year.”