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Nigeria: In Electricity Related Matter, Who Has The Right To Sue Or Complain?

Let me provide a background to this question. Imagine a tenant intends to sue the electricity distribution company, though, the meter was bought and registered in the name of the Landlord, however, the tenant has been the one using it and making payments for the purchase of electricity. So, who in law, has the right to complain?

The answer to the above question was provided by the Court in the case of AMADI & 5 ORS V ESSIEN (2020) Electricity Law Report Pgs 24-65. Responding to the issue regarding WHETHER AN UNREGISTERED POWER CONSUMER HAS LOCUS STANDI TO SUE? The Court said, “The main test or major determinant of Locus Standi is whether the Plaintiff has sufficient interest in the subject matter of the suit, if he has, then he is entitled to sue and the Court cannot stop him from doing so” similarly, the question whether a Plaintiff has a sufficient interest in the subject matter of the suit cannot be determined in vacuum but in the context of the facts and circumstances of the case. In the instant case, the Respondent lives at No. 13, Obio Oko Street, Uyo. He is a tenant to Mr. Michael Abraham, the Landlord. The tenant has been dealing directly with the electricity distribution company (NEPA as it then was) and paying all the bills as at when due.

However, when his electricity was disconnected and he sued N.E.P.A for wrongful disconnection and payment of damages, the learned counsel to N.E.P.A came up with an argument the tenant is an unregistered power consumer and has no locus in law, rather the suit ought to have been instituted by the Landlord. This is what the Court said, “In my view, it is ridiculous to contend that a person who deals directly with NEPA, pays his bills and other charges arising from the disconnection and all that, cannot commence an action against the authority, on the pretext that he was not a registered consumer. I have searched in vain for the expression “registered consumer’ in all the enabling statutes. There is no such expression. It will be a sad day in the relationship between NEPA and its numerous customers in the country for the Court to hold that a person who is directly paying the bills, which are subsequently accepted by NEPA cannot in turn sue for injury sustained by him. Let that day never come. In the light of the above position, I am of the firm view that the Tenant has the legal right to bring the action against NEPA.

Whereas, the electricity distribution company is no longer NEPA, the ratio in the judgment still stands. A tenant has the legal right to complain or sue the electricity distribution company for any injury sustained even where the name on the meter is that of the Landlord. Once he is able to show sufficient interest (demonstrate that he has been the one paying the bills), then he is legally covered to complain and protest.

Abdulkareem Azeez
Managing Partner
Firdaous Chamber

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