A Lagos-based lawyer and rights activist, Mr Adeola Samuel-Ilori, on Tuesday urged the Federal Government to protect the masses from alleged abuse of their rights by electricity providers.
Samuel-Ilori, the National Coordinator of All Electricity Consumers Protection Forum, made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
He spoke on the sidelines of the 2019 Annual World Human Rights Day organised by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Lagos Branch.
He was the Chairman of the event tagged: “Criminalisation of Rights to Freedom of Speech and Expression as Enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution”.
According to Samuel-Ilori, many people are aware of their rights but have a problem with how to activate them, as well as the limitations.
“Electricity consumers in Nigeria need help. Many of their rights as embedded in the law are being trampled upon by electricity distribution companies (Discos). It is the government that can help the people to get those rights.
“For us, as consumer rights advocates, we are doing our best to activate those rights. There are rights for the electricity consumers which cannot be enforceable by themselves.
“They can only be enforceable through the help of the government or the agency overseeing the sector which is the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
“Unfortunately, NERC is overwhelmed and not helping to curb the oppression of electricity consumers. NERC’s directives are not being followed. The methodology of giving estimated billings is not being followed.
“Who will the consumers now run to? They are handicapped and frustrated, and except the government rises up, we may not get respite. These rights must be enforced,” he said.
The activist alleged that the right to process before disconnection of electricity could take place was being flouted by Discos while many consumers were burdened with estimated billings.
According to him, anything done without following due process in electricity disconnection is illegal and criminal as contained in Section 11, subsection 1 of Connection and Disconnection Schedule, 2007 of the Electric Power Sector Reforms Act, 2005.
Samuel-Ilori said: ” For the whole community to be put in darkness because some people are owing is illegal and a criminal offence. Government should help end the excesses of power providers.
“It is a criminal offence for any Disco to illegally disconnect any consumer without following given disconnection notice .”
On right to vote and to be voted for, Samuel-Ilori said that many youths were ignorant that not voting was neglecting a right.
“My advice to youths is to be more proactive. If you leave anything for just anybody, that thing will be messed up. You must be able to continue to strive until you win.
“Nigerian youths must be more engaging in politics. Politics is not dirty, it is the people that made it dirty, politics is not killing, it is the people that make it so,” the rights activist added.
Speaking on the theme, the activist said that the freedom of speech and expression could never be criminalised.
“You can only make provisions for remedies for those who are injured to seek redress.
” It is enforcement of rights and the limitations that we need, and not criminalisation of rights,” he said.
In his address, Mr Alex Omotehinse, the Chairman, CDHR, Lagos Branch, urged the media to do more in promoting human rights and curbing fake news.
Omotehinse said: The 1999 Constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, respectively, guarantee freedom of speech and expression and, thus, an attempt any institution or individual to infringe on the right as enshrined, will not only lead to people’s revolt but also anarchy. ”
According to him, Nigerians should stand firm with the CDHR in protecting the rights of the voiceless. (NAN