The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) yesterday unveiled a plan for the development of a framework for engaging consumer advocacy groups in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).
This, the Commission said became necessary because of the observable gaps in the market especially in the area of knowledgeable, credible, and broad-based advocates or advocacy groups for electricity consumers.
Speaking at the Consumer Advocacy Groups Consultative Meeting in Abuja, the Chairman, NERC, Dr. Sam Amadi said, electricity consumers are huge and scattered therefore weakens the robustness of regulatory framework.
Amadi said, the meeting which was first of its kind, was aimed at engineering a process that would help set up advocacy network using the consumers because of the recognised gap in the balance of power in the electricity market.
He said the advocacy groups would protect the interest of the consumers by bringing to account the regulator and the operators.
The 6-page proposed document for the development of the Nigerian Electricity Consumer Advocacy Network (NECAN), was presented to consumers drawn from across the states of the federation.
Presenting the proposed document, NERC said in furtherance of its consumer protection mandate, it has “taken the strategic decision to pro-actively empower electricity consumers so that they can be better placed to make informed inputs into the regulatory process, be better enabled to advocate for their interests on the basis of knowledge and reason, and be in a stronger position to influence outcomes in the sector.”
The Commission gave the objectives to include: “to provide a structured platform for electricity consumers to be better organised, sensitised and constructively engaged in the electricity decision-making process; enhance the voice, bargaining power and agency of electricity consumers as critical stakeholders in the regulatory process;
“Improve the capacity of electricity consumers to make informed and fact-based contributions to consultative and deliberative aspects of decision-making; reduce the scope for conflicts in the sector by ensuring greater understanding and proactive engagement between operators of the electricity sector.”
Meanwhile, some of the industrial consumers expressed fears that the residential consumers especially artisans may lack professional/technical competence to join the network.
On the independence of the network, consumers also expressed fears that they may not have the full independence as required to carryout the work effectively. However, NERC assured it would not interfere with their work.
Nevertheless, they advised that since the regulators are also consumers, there should be legal backings to ensure that they don’t form alliance to influence the process to their advantage.
They also lamented that the rural communities in Nigeria are always left out by NERC in terms of information dissemination, pointing that even the advocacy meeting was organised without the rural consumers.
Amadi agreed that the commission has not been fair to consumers at rural areas with regards to information dissemination about meetings, but however, assured that they would also be captured in the plan advocacy network.