By G9ija

Labour’s push for the reversal of hike in electricity tariffs may have hit the brickwall.

This is because of the high cost of gas – the critical component used by the Generating Companies (GenCos) to power their plants.

The GenCos sell power to the Distribution Companies (DisCos) which take it to the end-users.

Highly-placed sources close to the committee set up by the Federal Government to look into the pricing of electricity said there has been no agreement among committee members as to whether gas is subsidised or not.

Labour threatens to call workers out on strike to protest last month electricity tariffs.

The setting up of a seven-man committee to review the electricity tariffs is the product of negotiation to starve off the industrial action.

The government also compelled the DisCos to put on hold for two weeks, the new tariffs to enable the committee to meet and submit a report.

The deadline for the committee expires this weekend.

The Technical Committee is made up of Minister of State for Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo, (Chairman); Minister of State Power, Godwin Jedy-Agba – member; Chairman, National Electricity Regulatory Commission, Prof. James Momoh – member and the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Infrastructure, Ahmad Rufai Zakari as Secretary.

Others are: Dr. Onoho’Omhen Ebhohimhen – member (NLC); Deputy President of the NLC and Secretary-General, Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Comrade Joe Ajaero – member; Comrade Chris Okonkwo – member (TUC) and a representative of Power Distribution Companies (DisCos) – member.

It was gathered that one of the recommendations on the table is a further halt in the implementation of the new tariffs beyond the  two weeks.

The source said: “We have not really concluded. We will conclude this week, but the conclusion of the work of the committee this weekend cannot give us what Nigerians are looking for. It is not a factor that you just wake up and say it is this amount and it is not this amount. There are some other determinants.

“Let me give you this without making reference to the work of the committee. The greater chunk of the money is spent on gas. Gas is their main source of generation. They had to now dollarise gas before they now price it at the GenCos.

“If GenCos now allegedly buy gas in dollar, then they now pass the dollar price to consumers.

“If we are able to address this matter by looking at policy directives especially on gas pricing, if we go through that process, then definitely we are going to puncture the issue of tariff no matter what they are going to pay.

But where we are having serious divergence is on the issue of whether actually there was  subsidy. Some of us said there is no subsidy but the government is claiming there is subsidy.

“These are still not things you can do within two weeks. So, the work of the committee may take more time to look at it critically. We are trying to see if there is anything we can do in order to submit our report within two weeks deadline.

“But the job that will lead to a reversal is not a job of two weeks. Some of them require policy direction.

“We will revert to the house at the end of the two weeks to submit our report. If they succeed on sitting in this freeze (suspend the implementation of the tariff) until the final report is done, fine.

“If we are able to get this minor relief until the final report is done, fine. That is what we are working on for now. We are still working but we have not fully agreed on anything to push out to the people now.”

The source said the two weeks given to the committee to work on the issue was not enough.

“We are working tomorrow through the weekend. We have done a lot of reading and consultations with stakeholders. We need to tidy up our report and submit and take another directive.

“You can’t do within two weeks and say reverse. If you know how  these people are buying gas, the question will be — should they buy it at this rate? We will find out. We also need to look at the policy in the oil and gas sector in terms of dollarising gas before.

On the need to further suspend the implementation of the new tariff, another source said: “Those are things we have not agreed upon. These things are on the table, options are on the table. Before the weekend we will concretise those options.

“Even those things you are saying now we have not agreed on them until they are ratified by our bosses. But options are on the table.”

Keyamo declined to comment on the work of the committee when contacted last night.

He said: “We are making progress. When the larger house meets, most likely this weekend, the details of the communique may be made known but like I said we are making progress, the details I cannot reveal now but we are making progress.”

The Seven-man Technical Sub-committee to review the increase in electricity tariff by the Federal Government was inaugurated on September 28.

The committee had its first sitting at the minister’s conference room last month.

The committee was set up at the end of a marathon meeting between the Federal Government and organised labour to avert last month’s planned strike.

The committee is expected to examine the justifications for the new policy in view of the need for the validation of the basis for the new cost reflective tariff as a result of the conflicting information from the field which appeared different from the data presented to justify the new policy by NERC and metering deployment challenges.

The other mandates of the committee are as follows:

  • To look at the different Electricity Distribution Company (DISCOs) and their different electricity tariff vis-à-vis NERC order and mandate.
  • Examine and advise government on the issues that have hindered the deployment of the six million meters.
  • To look into the NERC Act under review with a view to expanding its representation to include organised labour.