Judge warns FG, DISCOs against flouting court orders on tariff increment

 By Dotun Omolaja, Lagos

 

Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos has warned the Federal Government and Distribution Companies (DISCOs) against disobeying subsisting court orders on the new electricity tariff increment.

 

Justice Idris said the Federal Government must not act in a way that shows disdain for the court in a constitutional democracy.

 

He said: “The point must be made that obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly take the oath of office to protect and preserve the Constitution is decideratum to good governance and respect for rule of law. In a constitutional democratic society like ours, this is meant to be the norm.

 

“It is an act of apostacy for government to ignore the provisions of the law and the necessary rules meant to regulate matters.  I must say it loud and clear that the government of this country shall be a government of laws and not of men.”

 

Protests by labour unions have trailed the new power tarriff approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

 

Activist-lawyer Toluwani Adebiyi last year filed a suit seeking a perpetual injunction restraining NERC from implementing any upward review of electricity tariff without significant improvement in power supply for at least18 hours a day.

 

Justice Idris made an order directing parties to maintain status quo but while the suit was pending, NERC announced the tariff hike.

 

On Monday, Adebiyi informed the court that he has initiated contempt proceedings against NERC chairman and DISCOs’ Managing Directors for disobeying the court’s orders.

 

The lawyer is praying the court to commit the alleged contemnors to prison.

 

But NERC’s lawyer, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), said he had filed an appeal against the order by Justice Idris.

He said he also had a pending application for stay of proceedings pending determination of the appeal.

 

Adebiyi said the contempt charge should be heard first since NERC had undermined the court’s authority.

But Idigbe said the application for stay of proceedings should take precedence since an appeal has been lodged.

 

Ruling, Justice Idris said after a careful examination of the records of court, there were a number of pending applications to be dispensed with.

 

Among them is the Form 49 filed by the plaintiff and a motion for leave to serve the purported contemnors through their counsel.

 

He said there is also an application by second to 12th defendants to set aside the Form 49, as well as an application by NERC challenging the motion on notice for committal. 

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