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Senate scraps electricity fixed charges

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Disturbed by complaints of electricity consumers across the country, the Senate has directed the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to halt community metering and the monthly N702 fixed charges on electricity bills to consumers.

The Senate took this decision yesterday following a motion brought to its floor by the former Governor of Ebonyi State, Senator Sam Egwu (Ebonyi North) and co-sponsored by Senator David Umaru (Niger East).

While considering the motion, the Senate argued that a consumer has the right to elect to be part of or not the bulk metering scheme that is being implemented by the electricity distribution companies (DISCOs).

Consequently, the Red Chamber directed the NERC to urge DISCOs to discontinue the practice of compulsory bulk metering of villages and communities in the rural areas in the country.

The Senate also urged the NERC to inquire into the numerous complaints before it by consumers in line with the provisions of Section 74(1)(b) of the Power Sector Reform Act (PSRA).

It further called on the power regulatory agency and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) to sensitise electricity consumers on the remedies available to them in the event of inefficient services by the DISCOs.

The upper chamber also directed NERC to make a regulation to mandate the DISCOs to discontinue the practice of making consumers pay for meters, poles and transformers, which by law, are properties of the DISCOs.

While leading debate on the motion, Egwu argued that where the consumers purchased those items, they should give notice of the purchase to the DISCOs and be entitled to recover their expenses from subsequent consumption of electricity.

Arguing further on the motion entitled “Unfair trade practices of electricity distribution companies in Nigeria,” Egwu lamented that Nigerians had been short-changed by the DISCOs for too long as a result of these sharp practices being perpetrated against Nigerians.

He said: “The distribution companies, since the takeover of their operations, have been ripping off consumers through (the) fixed charges and bulk metering across the country.

“Some areas in the country are still billed through the estimated billing system, which doesn’t make provisions for payment of only electricity that is consumed, even though bills are dished out without commensurate services being offered by the distribution companies.

“Despite all efforts by the government, however, there has been constant level of arbitrariness, whereby electricity consumers are charged extortionate rates, fixed rate, based on the use of the billed meters installed by the then Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

“With the present economic situation in Nigeria, a lot of Nigerians (particularly the downtrodden) would not be able to access one of the very basic needs of life (electricity).

This billing system is also capable of ruining the economic power of most small scale business that requires electricity to function.

“Even those (Nigerians) that have these prepaid meters are being billed a fixed rate of about N700 per month on these meters (whether or not they consume electricity). What is the purpose of this fixed rate? Why is this so? What is the rationale behind it?

“By the avalanche of complaints by electricity consumers about the unwholesome practice of the DISCOs, which fall short of standards established by the NERC and do not also meet up to global best practices, the distribution companies have failed to discharge their contractual obligations to the Nigerian public.”

Egwu explained that the arbitrary charges of electricity bills by the Discos was because they were struggling to meet a set target. In their contributions, Senators Mohammed Danjuma Goje, Ben Bruce, Nelson Effiong, Chuka Utazi, Mohammed Salami, Francis Alimikhena, and Shittu Mohammed Ubali supported the motion.

In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki said: “This is a very important topic.

The people have not seen any benefits from this privatisation exercise. If they need to be reversed, they must be reversed in the interest of Nigerians. The period of impunity is over.”

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Organ harvesting: Dino Melaye reacts to arrest of Ekweremadu, wife

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Dino Melaye

Former Kogi West Senator, Dino Melaye has expressed his support for ex-Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu amid controversy of alleged organ harvesting.

Melaye said he stands with Ekweremadu because there was no wrongdoing by the Senator.

Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice were arrested in London for allegedly plotting to harvest the kidney of a Nigerian minor.

The UK metropolitan police had arrested and charged Ekweremadu and his wife to court, but the duo pleaded not guilty to the charges at the Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court.

“These are serious allegations and these matters are now adjourned until 7 July back here at Uxbridge,” Magistrate Lois Sheard said.

Ms Sheard remanded both defendants in custody ahead of their hearing next month.

Sharing Ekweremadu’s letter via his Twitter handle, Melaye wrote: “Sen. Ike Ekweremadu notified the British authorities on his trip with the said boy. I stand with Ike.”

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Supreme Court set to rule on controversial Electoral Act on Friday

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The Supreme Court of Nigeria will on Friday deliver judgment on the legality or otherwise of the controversial section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 .

The apex Court is set for its verdict in the suit instituted against the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation AGF and Minister of Justice.

A notice for the judgment delivery has just been sighted, indicating that the apex Court will make its position known this morning.

The notice was served on Buhari and the National Assembly on Thursday, inviting them to appear before the court today for their judgment.

Our correspondent further observed that the suit is the only one for determination today.

Buhari and Abubakar Malami had filed the suit at the Supreme Court, seeking an interpretation of the controversial clause in the Electoral Amendment Act 2022.

In the suit filed on April 29, Buhari and Malami, who are the plaintiffs, listed the National Assembly as the sole defendant.

Section 84 (12) has been a subject of intense litigation and political debate in Nigeria since President Buhari signed the amended Electoral Act 2022 into law in February this year.

Shortly after signing it into law, Buhari had asked the parliament to delete the controversial clause in the Electoral Act, but the National Assembly declined the president’s request.

According to Section 84 (12) of the legislation, “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”

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World’s most livable cities: Vienna climbs back to its No. 1 spot. These are the biggest decliners

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World’s most livable cities: Vienna climbs back to its No. 1 spot
The Stephansplatz is a square at the geographical centre of Vienna. It is named after its most prominent building, the Stephansdom, Vienna's cathedral and one of the tallest churches in the world.

After two years, Vienna has overtaken Auckland as the world’s most livable city, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Vienna ranked first in 2018 and 2019, but was overtaken by Auckland, New Zealand, during the pandemic and slipped to 12th place in 2021, according to the Global Liveability Index 2022.

The EIU said that Auckland’s position on the index dipped to the 34th place this year because of higher Covid-19 infection rates and strict border controls in 2021. Although lockdowns ended in New Zealand in December, well-vaccinated cities in Europe and Canada had begun easing restrictions earlier.

However, it’s unlikely that Auckland would’ve clinched the top position in this year’s ranking even without a pandemic, according to the EIU.

“Other cities falling was why Auckland was top last time. Without Covid, it would likely be top 10, but not number one,” said Simon Baptist, global chief economist at the research and advisory firm.

Five other European cities — Copenhagen, Zurich, Geneva, Frankfurt and Amsterdam — also made the top ten. Canada’s Calgary and Vancouver took the third and fifth spots respectively. Japan’s Osaka and Australia’s Melbourne shared 10th place — the only two “Asian” cities that made it to the top 10.

The 172 cities that were included in the rating were assessed on these categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

Biggest decliners
Cities in New Zealand and Australia were the biggest fallers in the EIU’s livability ranking.

New Zealand’s capital Wellington dived by 46 places, while Australia’s Adelaide and Perth lost their 2021 positions in the top 10. They are now in the 30th and 32nd place respectively.

Australian and New Zealand cities snagged six of the top 10 spots last year, but were “much, much lower down” on this year’s list as their partial reopening coincided with the spread of the more contagious omicron variant, Baptist told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Thursday.

But the EIU is optimistic that these cities would bounce back.

“We can expect to see Australian and New Zealand cities moving up the rankings next year, when we do the next round of the survey. And this will be because they will have relaxed more of their Covid restrictions,” said Baptist.

Other cities in the region saw their rankings slip as well.

Singapore fell three spots to 37th place this year, while Hong Kong dropped to 62nd place from 49th last year.

“This is a long term change, it’s not just about Covid. That is part of it. But Hong Kong’s loss of connectivity is likely to be permanent,” said Baptist, citing the decline of cultural and political freedom in the city.

Russian cities plunged
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine saw Moscow’s livability ranking fall by 15 places, while St. Petersburg dipped by 13 spots, the EIU reported.

“Both cities record a fall in scores owing to increased instability, censorship, imposition of Western sanctions and corporates withdrawing their operations from the country,” the report said.

The war on Ukraine also affected the rankings of other Eastern European cities that have been facing political standoffs security threats, food and energy insecurities, and rising inflation, EIU said.

For example, Poland’s Warsaw and Hungary’s Budapest saw their stability scores slip as a result of rising diplomatic tensions, the EIU added.

Ukraine’s capital Kyiv was also excluded from this year’s report, and 33 new cities — 11 of them in China — were added.

The top 10
These are the world’s most livable cities and their scores, according to The Global Liveability Index 2022:

  1. Vienna, Austria (99.1)
  2. Copenhagen, Denmark (98.0)
  3. TIE — Zurich, Switzerland (96.3)
  4. TIE — Calgary, Canada (96.3)
  5. Vancouver, Canada (96.1)
  6. Geneva, Switzerland (95.9)
  7. Frankfurt, Germany (95.7)
  8. Toronto, Canada (95.4)
  9. Amsterdam, Netherlands (95.3)
  10. TIE — Osaka, Japan (95.1)
  11. TIE — Melbourne, Australia (95.1)

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