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Court annuls 45% electricity tariff hike

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A Federal High Court  sitting in Lagos, yesterday, annulled the increment in electricity tariff recently announced by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC. Trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris in his judgment in the suit by a human rights lawyer, Mr. Toluwani Adebiyi, challenging the increment, described NERC’s action as procedurally ultra vires, irrational, irregular and illegal.

In a swift reaction, labour applauded the judgment and asked NERC and DISCOs to immediately respect the ruling, describing it as a “victory for the ordinary Nigerian who had been crushed by exploitative bills.”

These developments came on a day the House of Representatives described the Distribution Companies, DISCOs, as the biggest scam in Nigeria and called on the Federal Government to halt any tariff by 100 per cent in the country.

On the judgement, the court, relying on Sections 31, 32 and 76 of the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act(EPSRA) 2005, in deciding the substantive suit, held that, “NERC acted outside the powers conferred on it by the Act and failed to follow the prescribed procedure.”

The court said that “NERC has not shown that it acted in due obedience to the prescribed procedures and that there is no evidence that NERC complied with Section 76(6)(7)and (9) of the EPSRA Act.

“Of all the legal requirements, it appeared the only one complied with by NERC was that it announced the new tariff in the newspapers. It is clear from the affidavit evidence that the increase in tariff was done by NERC in defiance of the order of this court made on May 28, 2015, which directed parties in the case to maintain the status quo. The law is that every person upon whom an order is made by a court of competent jurisdiction must obey it, unless and until the order is discharged and set aside on appeal.”

The court consequently, held that,” The tariff increase from July 1, 2015 was done in breach of the ‘status quo’ order. NERC’s action, was therefore, clearly hasty, reckless and irresponsible.

“This country is in a democracy where the rule of law shall prevail over impunity or whimsical desires. Anything to the contrary will be an invitation to anarchy. It is the law that what is done officially must be done in accordance to the law. Investors are free to do business in Nigeria but they shall abide by the law of this country. Nigeria is not a kangaroo State. Nigeria is not a banana Republic. It is intolerance and extremely dangerous for any branch of the executive to create a posture it may not obey certain orders of the court. That is tantamount to executive recklessness which will lead to lawlessness.”

Invoking its disciplinary jurisdiction, the court ordered: “The increment in electricity tariff which took effect after the institution of this action and while a restraining order is subsisting is, hereby, declared illegal and same is hereby set aside. NERC is, hereby, directed to revevert to the status quo and the commission is, hereby, restrained from further increasing electricity tariff except it complies strictly with the relevant provisions of the EPSRA.”

The sum of N50,000 was awarded in favour of the plaintiff. Reacting to the judgement, organised labour applauded it and asked NERC and DISCOs to immediately respect the ruling and revert to the old tariff without further delay. According to labour, the judgement is a “victory for the ordinary Nigerian who has been crushed by exploitative bills.”

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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