OrderPaperToday – The bill for an act to prohibit estimated billing by electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) in Nigeria is back for consideration in the National Assembly after it fell through attempts to pass it in the 8th assembly.
Although the bill was passed by the House of Representatives at the time, the Senate was unable to pass it through for the next necessary step for presidential assent.
The bill was initially sponsored in 2018 by incumbent speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila. After sailing second reading in the green chamber, a public hearing was conducted on the 5th of June, 2018 and the bill was subsequently passed by committee of the whole in January 2019.
It was promptly sent to the Senate for concurrence but the red chamber did not act on the bill till the 8th Assembly expired.
But on the 25th of August, 2019, the House of Representatives reintroduced the bill, alongside 4 other bills; Physically Challenged (Empowerment) Bill, 2019 (HB. 02), Presidential (Transition) Bill, 2019 (HB. 03); Students Loan (Access to Higher Education) Bill, 2019 (HB. 06); and Federal Highways Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (HB. 08).
Moving the motion on the bill on behalf of the Speaker, the leader of the House, Alhassan Ado Dogwa (APC, Kano) said that the reconsideration of the bill is pursuant to Order 12 Rule 16 of the Standing Orders of the House.
“Bills passed by the preceding assembly and forwarded to the Senate for concurrence for which no concurrence was made or negatived or passed by the Senate and forwarded to the House for which no concurrence was made or negatived or which were passed by the National Assembly and forwarded to the President for assent but for which assent or withholding thereof was not communicated before the end of the tenure of the assembly, the House may resolve that such bills, upon being re-gazetted or clean copies circulated, be re-considered in the Committee of the Whole without being commenced de-novo,” he said.
He added that the aforementioned bills were passed by the preceding assembly and forwarded to the Senate for concurrence for which no concurrence was made before the end of the tenure of the last assembly.
What’s in the bill?
The bill seeks to amend the principal act by adding new sections (68 to 71) which basically stipulate the prohibition of estimated billing by distribution companies in Nigeria. Simply put, here are the top 5 highlights of the bill:
1. Estimated billing methodology in Nigeria would be prohibited
2. Electricity consumers who apply to the companies are to be metered within 30 days after payment
3. Procurement of meters on credit which provides that consumers who want to buy prepaid meters through the Credit Advancement Metering Implementation scheme must say it in their forms; and the DISCOs must give them meters within 30 days after receipt of application
4. Failure to supply the pre-paid meter means the DISCOs would have no power to disconnect a customer or give estimated billings
5. Officials of DISCOs are liable to a fine of N500,000 or six months jail or both if convicted for illegal disconnection.
This bill although popular among Nigerians have been stridently opposed by the DISCOs and even the regulatory agency, the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). But with the seemingly strong resolve of the House under the leadership of Gbajabiamila, will the opposition be able to stand?
Time will tell.