BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged a Federal High Court in Lagos to mandate the federal government to make provision for free prepaid meters to all Nigerians and put an end to the use of patently illegal, arbitrary, unfair and discriminatory estimated billing across the country.
SERAP is in the suit seek leave of the court to apply for Judicial Relief and to seek an Order of Mandamus directing and or compelling the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) to enforce his directives to electricity distribution companies over the provision of free prepaid meters.
The human rights group insisted in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/906/17, that, “by failing and/or neglecting to enforce his directives to DISCOs, Fashola is implicitly promoting the use of unjustifiable estimated billing, and increasing consumer costs.
SERAP also argues that, “Fashola’s constitutional and statutory responsibility is not just to give directives to DISCOs to provide free prepaid meters to all Nigerians but also to decisively enforce such directives and end the use of estimated billing. Effective access to electricity includes metering of all consumers. It is the responsibility of the Federal Government which has been assigned to Mr Fashola, and he cannot shy away from it.”
The organisation also submitted that, “Unless the reliefs sought are granted, Mr Fashola and the Federal Government will not perform their constitutional and statutory responsibilities to enforce the directives to DISCOs to provide free prepaid meters to all Nigerians. It is in the interest of justice to ensure strict enforcement of directives, deadlines and regulations on provision of free pre-paid meters to all Nigerians, and an end to estimated billing.”
The suit brought pursuant to Order 34 of the Federal High Court Rules and the inherent jurisdiction of the court, was signed by SERAP deputy director Timothy Adewale. The suit followed the organization’s request to Mr Fashola asking him to “urgently enforce your directives and discharge your ministerial and statutory duty to ensure completion of metering of unmetered customers and total abolition of estimated billing in the country.”
The suit read in part: “Access to regular electricity supply is a prerequisite for satisfying basic human needs, improving living standards, maintaining good human health, alleviating poverty and facilitating sustainable development. It’s unlawful for DISCOs to disconnect electricity supplies on the basis of unpaid estimated bills.
“Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law. In a democratic society, this is meant to be a norm; it is an apostasy for government to ignore the provisions of the law and the necessary rules and directives made to regulate matters.
“Electricity provides a safe means of cooking (through electric stoves) and food preservation (refrigeration). Electricity is therefore essential to agriculture and a prerequisite for food security. Electricity can also be employed to realise the human right to access clean water”.