By Ifeanyi Nwoko
The National Assembly has prescribed a N500,000 fine on any providers of water, electricity and other utility providers who increases tariff without recourse to the Utilities Charges Commission.
The fine represents a 4900 per cent increment from the original fine of N10,000 prescribed in the Utilities Charges Commission Act 2004.
With the amendment, any utility service provider must first confer with and get approval from the commission before increasing tariffs and bringing hardship on Nigerians.
The Senate gave its concurrence to the Bill amending the Act which had already been passed by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate for concurrence.
Therefore electricity distribution companies will henceforth not unilaterally increase its tariff without first consulting the commission.
In his lead debate at Thursday plenary, Senate Leader Ali Ndume explained that the amendment was in line with current realities.
Provisions amended in the previous law include Sections 7 (2), 11 (5), 13 (2). In the amendment, the legislative body reviewed the fines from N10,000 to N500,000.
Section 7 reads: “As from the commencement of this Act, a scheduled Utility intending to vary or increase its charges, tariff or rates shall first seek the commission’s approval for such permissible increase.
“A person who contravenes the provisions of sub section one of this section commits an offence under this Act and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000”.
The Senate also referred the screening of nominees to the Board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to its Committee on Communications.
The committee was mandated to report back to the Senate in two weeks.
Those to be screened include: Olabiyi Durojaiye (Chairman); Sunday Dare (Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management); Aliyu Abubakar (Non-Executive Commissioner); Clement Baiye (Non-Executive Commissioner) and Okoi Obia (Non-Executive Commissioner)
Others are Ezekiel Yissa (Non-Executive Commissioner) and Ifeanyi Ararume (Non-Executive Commissioner).
The Senate also approved and passed 12 Bills including Defence Space Agency Bill, Agricultural Credit Scheme Act (Amendment) Bill: University of Abuja (Amendment) Bill: Chattered Institute of Stock Brokers Act (Amendment) Bill: Treaty to Establish African Economic Community Relating to Pan African Parliament Bill and Utilities Charges Commission Act (Amendment) Bill.
Other bills passed include National Judicial Institute Act (Amendment) Bill: Endangered Species Act (Amendment) Bill: Quantity Surveyors Act (Amendment) Bill: Advertising Practitioners Act (Amendment) Bill, Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act (Amendment) Bill and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Agency (Amendment) Bill.