The Problem Statement
Nigeria has been adversely affected by poor roads, lack of good electricity, poor railway and network system, etc. The lack of these amenities affects the standard living of the populace and hinders national growth and development.
This has ushered in the creation of several public utilities offices or parastatals to address and fill this gap. The public utilities offices provide citizens with electricity, water, telecommunication, postal, railway, and port services, etc.
Examples of public utility parastatals include the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC)), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Ferry Services Organizations, Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Postal Services (NIPOST) and Road Transportation Organizations, etc.
However, due to the autonomy that several public utilities offices have and the power to generate internal revenue for the Federal Government, they place high tariffs on the people and diminish the standard of living of the people that should be protected by the social services rendered.
This can be seen from the high charges they allocate to their services.
The Policy Solution
In a bid to reduce the excessiveness caused by several public utilities due to their autonomy and exorbitant charges that they place on people, The Utilities Charges Commission act was created to advise the Federal Government on tariff charges related to specific utilities and protect the citizens from high tariff charges and ensure good services.
For instance, if any public utility wants to increase tariffs, they have to reach the commission and consult them so that it does not bring any hardship to Nigerians.
This can be found in section 7 of the amendment act.
Ultimately, in 2016, “The National Assembly has prescribed a N500,000 fine on any provider of water, electricity and other utilities who increases tariff without recourse to the Utilities Charges Commission. The fine is contained in the Bill amending the Utilities Charges Act 2004. It is a significant raise from the original fine of N10,000.”
NIGAC Constructive Position/Take
The problem with this act is the lack of awareness from the citizens. Citizens are not aware that there is a utility charges commission act where they can report excessive charges of public utilities and where they can lay complaints.
More importantly, we have seen a huge increase in public utility services in the past, without any stringent actions being taken by the commission.
The act is meant to protect the citizens but it is not implemented due to one factor or the other. The Government however should represent the citizens.
Hence, the need for mass education and awareness of the act to the public, so that they can demand their rights when it is needed. Also, this should be communicated in the local languages people speak because almost every citizen uses one or two different public utilities.
Prepaid charges seem like a great idea and it has been working well with the PHCN. Maybe it could be something other public utilities can introduce and ensure the even distribution of it as well without stress or limited charges.