Monday, February 22, 2016 8:04 pm
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday dismissed the application for a stay of further proceedings filed by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) over the hike in electricity tariff.
NERC had asked the court for stay of proceedings until its appeal against two previous rulings by the court was heard and determined by the Court of Appeal.
Justice Mohammed Idris had in one of the rulings barred NERC from implementing any upward review in electricity tariff pending the hearing and determination of the main suit.
The other ruling was the dismissal of NERC’s preliminary objections to the suit.
Idris, who dismissed the application for stay of proceedings for lacking in merit, held that contrary to the claims of the applicant, there were no indications that the appeal had been listed for hearing at the Court of Appeal.
“It is clear that the applicant has an application before the court seeking for an extension of time to compile and transmit its record at the Appeal Court.
“There is also another motion for leave to rely on the same record of appeal in this present appeal.
“ There is no indication that the application has been listed on the cause list or that it had been heard or adjourned for hearing.
“In the circumstance, this court cannot grant a stay of proceedings on an appeal which is awaiting regularisation at the Appeal Court.
“The application lacks merit and is dismissed accordingly,’’ he ruled.
The judge also awarded a N10,000 cost in favour of the plaintiff.
After the ruling, there were arguments among parties in the case as to which application should be taken by the court.
The plaintiff, in his submissions, insisted that the ruling of the court had cleared the way for the hearing of his motion for contempt.
However, the defendants wanted the court to hear the substantive matter.
According to them, the plaintiff had not met any of the conditions prescribed by the law for his contempt charge to be heard by the court.
In a short ruling on the issue, Idris held that though contempt charge affected the integrity of the court, it would be in the interest of justice for all applications challenging the contempt proceedings to be heard first.
NERC’s counsel, Mr Anthony Idigbe(SAN), then moved his application challenging the filing of forms 48 and 49 by the plaintiff.
He urged the court to dismiss the application for not following due process.
The plaintiff, however urged the court to dismiss all objections to the contempt charge and commit the NERC Chairman and the CEOs of the Distribution Companies(Discos) to prison for desecrating the judiciary.
He said the action of the alleged contemnors should be condemned and should not go unpunished.
After listening to the arguments of parties, the judge adjourned till Feb. 29 for ruling on the application challenging the contempt charge.
In the substantive suit brought by Toluwani Adebiyi, a lawyer and human rights activist, the plaintiff sought an order restraining NERC from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff.
This, the plaintiff said, was against the backdrop that there had been no meaningful and significant improvement in power supply at least for 18 hours in a day in most communities in Nigeria.
He also sought an order restraining NERC from foisting compulsory service charge on pre-paid meters not until “the meters are designed to read charges per second of consumption and not a flat rate of service not rendered or power not used.’’
The service charge on pre-paid meters, he added, should not to be enforced until there was visible efficient and reliable power supply like those of foreign countries where the idea of service charge was borrowed.
Adebiyi further asked for an order of court mandating NERC to do the needful and generate more power to meet the electricity use of Nigerians.
The lawyer also asked the court to mandate NERC to make available to all Nigerians within a maximum of two years prepaid meters as a way to stop the indiscriminate estimated bill.