NERC Refuses to Fund NECAN

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Tomi Akingbogun

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The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission says it will not fund the Nigerian Electricity Consumers Advocacy Network to enable it to be independent of the regulatory body

| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jul 20, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |

THE Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, has explained why it decided to change its proposed financial support to the Nigerian Electricity Consumers Advocacy Network, NECAN, which it initiated. The NERC said its decision to withdraw its financial support for NECAN was informed by its regulatory stand as well as industry position that NECAN should have its operational independency, away from the regulator’s control.

It also maintained that funding NECAN would amount to regulatory partiality whereas industry operators could interpret the gesture as an unwholesome bias to other players in the sector. Such act, NERC explained would be unhealthy to the development of a value-driven electricity market in the country.

Sam Amadi, chairman of NERC, in an interview with THISDAY, said that other industry operators had in the wake of the development, reminded the commission of the consequences of such partisan position. “We were intimated with reactions from other parties in the sector and we realised that it will be wrong for us to fund the operations of NECAN.

“If we go ahead to fund the activities of NECAN, it means that they will always want to do our bidding and that will mean that they could be an extension of the regulator or a stooge of the regulator. That will be unfair to other parties in the sector. The DISCOs, for instance, have their own framework on which they argue for their interest and NERC does not fund their activities. We want NECAN to do the same and not relying on NERC.”

According to Amadi, the regulator will, however, contribute to the activities of NECAN by providing it with the relevant trainings it requires to stay active in the sector as well as advocating for its recognition amongst key industry players, and not necessarily giving it monies to fund its activities.

The NECAN had on Thursday, July 2, raised alarm that the agency has collapsed due to NERC’s refusal to provide the start-up grant, which it promised during the inauguration. Tomi Akingbogun, chairman, NECAN steering committee, said the group’s members were shocked by NERC’s response when it contacted the commission for the start-up fund.

He accused NERC of pussy-footing in its pledge to provide NECAN with a take-off grant, as well as other forms of financial support in its formative stages. “We had several meetings, started various registration processes and contacted all zones of Nigeria. We made good progress. All these were financed by the interim members on the premise that they will be refunded from the promised fund from NERC. By May 25, we updated NERC with our activities so far and requested for part of the starting fund, especially to secure the office space, equip it and employ workers. NERC did not reply the letter, but on follow up, we were shocked by the verbal response from the chairman that NERC had decided not to support NECAN financially. This is like leading a team to cross the sea and abandoning them at the sea,” he said.

Amadi, had during the inaugural meeting of NECAN, stated that in spite of the noble intent and progressive actions of the commission, the outcomes of its endeavours were still not fair to the consumers, stressing that “until consumers are organised and able to contend against the operators, the democracy bargain in the Nigerian electricity market will remain deficient.” But this may never happen as the advocacy group has been crippled by lack of funds as a result of the refusal of NERC to support it financially.

NECAN was inaugurated by NERC on April 27, to advance consumers’ stakes in Nigeria’s electricity industry. The network by the intention of the regulator is expected to place consumers on a good pedestal to argue for accountable service delivery from operators in the market.

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