Electricity tariff hike: Labour vows to continue protest as Fashola parleys stakeholders

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Monday picketed the offices of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

The action was to press home their demand for the reversal of the 45 per cent electricity tariff increase which took effect on February 1.

The joint action was led by NLC and TUC Presidents Ayuba Wabba and Bobboi Kaigama respectively.

Wabba said that the Congress would not accept any tariff increment in view of the current harsh economic situation of the country.

“We cannot accept this tariff increase in this hard economy and the illegal process that gave rise to the increase should be revisited.

“We are totally disappointed in the Minister of Power and we cannot pay for what we do not consume,” he said.

Kaigama, in his speech, advised NERC to look beyond incessant increase in electricity tariff and see to it that the government improves service delivery.

Responding, Mr Mustapha Bukar, the NERC General Manger (Marketing) commended Labour for the peaceful protest.

Bukar gave an assurance that the complaint would be addressed in the interest of the citizenry.

“We have listened to your complaint and we assure you that we are going to convey your complaint to the Commission as appropriate.

“Right now the Commission has not been re-constituted and we are aware that any moment from now, the Federal Government will reconstitute the commission.

“So, all these complaints are going to be forwarded to them.”

The protesters displayed placards which read “We say no to electricity tariff increase”, “We have come of age and the era we are deprived of what belong to us is over.”

Other inscriptions were “Say no to 45 per cent increase in electricity bills”, “we cannot pay more for darkness”, “Nigerians say no to estimated billing”, “NERDC and DISCO: obey court order, we are in democracy”, “Privatisation is corruption”, “We need light not darkness.”

Chairman of NLC, Sokoto State chapter, Aminu Muhammad, who led officials of the Union to picket the office of the Kaduna Electric Company, said Organised Labour would do all things within the confine of the law to ensure their demands were met.

“We are out to conduct a peaceful protest and ensure we picket all the electricity offices across Sokoto to send the message from the masses to the government.

“This picketing organised by NLC became necessary to ensure that the present administration withdraws the exploitative tariff.

“The Labour Congress will ensure it passes the message to the government, to ensure that the tariff increase is withdrawn,” he said.

Protesters locked the premises of Port-Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom

The Akwa Ibom State TUC Chairman, Mr Akamba Awah, said Labour believed that there was no rationale behind the increase.

The union leader argued that there was no reason for the hike, adding that the state has Ibom Power Plant producing gas for electricity.

According to him, electricity is subsidised in Akwa Ibom by the state government.

Reacting in a telephone interview, the Public Relations Officer to PHEDC, Mr John Onyi, said that the company had invited labour for a meeting.

He said that as soon as the issue was resolved at the headquarters, all the state offices of the organisation would resume work immediately.

In Ado-Ekiti, NLC and TUC members also picketed the state headquarters of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, (BEDC) over the issue.

The workers who were chanting anti-government songs, carried placards containing various anti-government inscriptions throughout the 30 minutes period the protest lasted.

They however vacated the area on sighting the police and members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.

The protest also took place in Makurdi with Union leaders assuring that they would vehemently resist the increased electricity tariff in the country.

In Benin, the state Chairman of NLC, Emmanuel Ademokun‎, accused the distribution companies of disobeying a court order which he said ordered a stay of action on the increase.

“‎We are here on picketing as directed by the national body of the TUC, NLC and the civil society organisations, against the electricity tariff increase.

“The civil societies, pensioners and market women are here with us. It is a fight for everybody; it is not a fight for only the workers.”

Labour movement in Gombe also picketed the Jos Electricity Distribution Company (JED) in reaction to the increase.

Haruna Kamara, chairman, NLC Gombe, called on NERC to reverse the 45 per cent increase in tariff.

The organised labour in Kano was also not left behind in the peaceful protest.

Kabiru Minjibir, the Kano Chairman of NLC, who presented a protest letter to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Labour Matters, Isah Danguguwa, expressed concern over the tariff increase.

“We consider the increase in the electricity tariff as illegal and unjustifiable.

“There is no significant improvement in the power supply. The increase does not consider the current economic situation in the country,” he said.

The Special Adviser assured the labour that the letter would be forwarded to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje for onward submission to President Muhammadu Buhari.

In Ilorin, the protest was led by the Chairman of the Kwara chapter of the NLC, Alhaji Abdul Yekini Agunbiade and the state Chairman of the Trade Union (TUC), Mr Kolawole Olumoh.

Hundreds of protesters picketed the office of the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company in the state capital.

The TUC Chairman Mr Kolawole Olumo said there had not been any quality service delivery to justify the new increase.

He called on federal government to find a lasting solution to the issue of epileptic power supply in the country.

Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, Monday chaired the second monthly meeting of the power sector operators in furtherance of his determination to find practical solutions to issues affecting the nation’s electricity industry even as he appealed to organised labour and consumers for understanding over the new Multi-Year Tariff Order which came into effect on February 1.

The meeting which held at the Alagbon Transmission and Distribution Complex in Ikoyi, Lagos had in attendance representatives of all the Power Generation Companies (Gencos), Distribution Companies (Discos) and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), as well as various government agencies such as the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET), the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and  the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) responsible for the regulation and development of the electricity industry.

The oil and gas industry was also represented at the meeting by senior executives of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), Gas Aggregating Company of Nigeria (GACN) and the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC).

Fielding questions from newsmen after being conducted round the completed and ongoing power projects at the Alagbon Transmission and Distribution Sub-station, under the management of the Eko Distribution Company which co-hosted the meeting, Fashola said although the decision to increase tariff was a hard one, without proper pricing of power, the whole system would collapse after sometime.

The minister, who likened the decision to a case of quinine and malaria, added “It is a hard decision, but we appeal to all for understanding because we are doing it in the interest of all the people. We do not have many choices but we promise that it will get better”.

Giving assurance that the problem in the power sector could be solved with the right tool, Fashola declared, “I know that the people who have been disappointed over a long time will feel a sense of concern that tariff has gone up but the truth is that the government of yesterday lacked the courage to tell the people the true situation.

“This is why you had review of tariff every two years which presupposed that tariff would increase every two years. But we have done a 10 year tariff and if you look at the tariff closely you will see that about two years from now we will begin to go down a sliding scale and whatever price the tariff offers.”

Fashola appealed to the media to help in enlightening the populace on the essentials of power production and distribution adding, “Everybody must know how power is produced and distributed”.

The minister, who also expressed reservation about how the privatisation exercise was conducted by the last administration, however, said he would move on with what he met on ground and try to improve it assuring that his ministry was capable of solving the problem.

“This is the problem that has been here for the last 16 years if you put it mildly and about 100 years ago if you put it more elaborately. We are less than a hundred days in office but I can assure you we will solve the problem if you give us the tools,” he said.

Reiterating that the nation and various stakeholders should allow stability to endure, the minister stated that rather than start a disruptive fight, labour and all concerned stakeholders should embrace the path of productivity.