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Labour in Showdown With DISCOs Over Electricity Tariff Increment

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) as well as civil society organisations will, today, picket the offices of electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) nationwide over the increase in tariffs, Daily Independent reports.

The organised labour and its affiliates will also stage a protest at the headquarters of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in Abuja. But, the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) has appealed to the organised labour to shelve its planned protest.

Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, had declared that there was no going back in the hike in electricity tariff. The new tariffs payable by electricity consumers effective from February 1, 2016, indicate increases in charges for different categories of consumers across the country. Consumers under the Abuja DISCO, who are paying N19.96 as energy charge currently, now pay N29.56, representing an increase of 48.1 per cent. Those under the Eko DISCO will now pay N28.75 instead of N18.75, representing 53.3 per cent increase.

Those under Ikeja, Kaduna and Benin DISCOs, who used to pay N14.96, N20.66 and N18.46 for a unit of electricity, now pay N22.96, N31.71 and N27.72, respectively. These represent 53.5 per cent, 53.5 per cent and 49.62 per cent rise for the three DISCOs respectively. According to the document released by NERC, commercial consumers (C2) under the Ibadan and Enugu DISCOs, who used to pay N26.79 and N29.05 for a unit of energy, now pay N38.87 and N42.4.

This represents a 45.1 per cent and 45.9 per cent increase in the respective rates. NLC General Secretary, Dr. Peter Oso-Ezon, told New Telegraph yesterday that members of the two congresses, as well as civil society organisations and electricity consumers, have been effectively mobilised to participate in the protest nationwide today.

He said that all the DISCO offices across the country are to be picketed during the protest as a sign of rejection of the tariff increase, which he said negates the present biting and prevailing economic recession in the country.

Oso-Ezon noted that the protest is the first step in the series of actions lined up by the congresses against the tariff increase, noting that all relevant stakeholders would meet after the protest and decide the next step of action. His words: “The rally goes on as planned including the picketing of DISCO offices across the country. They have been effectively mobilised for the protest.

“Abuja rally will start at Labour House, Central Business District at 8a.m. before moving to the NERC head office at Adamawa Plaza, Plot 1099, First Avenue, Off Shehu Shagari Way, Central Business District. From the NERC office, the rally will roll to the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company at Zone 4.

The rally will mobilise from there to the National Assembly.” The National Union of Textiles, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) has thrown its weight behind the planned picketing of all offices of DISCOs.

A statement signed by the General Secretary of the union, Comrade Issa Aremu, stated that what Nigerians need is improved power supply and not hike in electricity tariffs, adding that “without electrification, there can be no industrialisation.”

“The point cannot be overstated. Between 30 per cent and 35 per cent of textile and garment manufacturing costs are energyrelated expenses. Without electrification, there can be no industrialisation,” the union stated.

According to Aremu, “the promise and expectation that President Muhammadu Buhari will revive textile industry generally is not possible without electricity. It’s time for Buhari administration to critically review the power sector reform with a view of increasing public sector investment.”

The union called on its members across the country and all well-meaning Nigerians to come out and join the NLC “protest to drive home the fact that the unilateral and unlawful hike of electricity tariff is unacceptable.”

NLC had, in a statement issued last Friday by its President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, explained that the protest rally has become necessary after all efforts to make NERC shelve the idea of tariff increase failed. It argued that due process in the extant laws for such increment was not followed in consonance with section 76 of the Power Sector Reform Act, 2005.

NLC also stressed that there has been no significant improvement in service delivery, noting that most consumers are not metered in accordance with the privatisation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of November 1, 2013, which stipulates that within 18 months gestation period, all consumers are to be metered.

NLC had, in a statement, said: “With the increment, this disparity will not only be substantial, it will kill Nigerians and businesses. The saddest part of it all is that there is no correlation between the quality of service delivery and this tariff. “The implementation of this tariff is an act of lawlessness because there is a subsisting restraining court order on further increases.

And yet we are in a democracy. “The point must also be made that the immediate past government in its twilight approved a whopping N18.26 billion for these companies in order to boost electricity supply. “Yet there is nothing to show for it. A privatised sector that continues to parasite on government with insignificant benefit to Nigerians is, at best, a leech on our economy and should be interrogated.

“We would want to make the point that this tariff increase is only intended to protect the investment of a select few and not to serve the interest of other Nigerians. In light of all of the above, this increase is illegal, unfair, unjustifiable and a further exploitation of the already exploited Nigerians.”

Meanwhile, ANED, on Sunday in Kano, appealed to the organised labour to shelve its planned protest over electricity tariff increase today. A statement by the Executive Director, Research and Advocacy of the association, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, urged the unions to support the power sector operators to improve electricity supply in the country. The statement urged Nigerians to support the Federal Government and the power sector operators to ensure the sustenance of the sector.

It said that Nigeria was witnessing an all-time high 5,075 megawatts of electricity for the first time in the history of the nation’s power sector. “This is a demonstration that the sector has the capacity to meet the country’s power needs.

“Power is a major requirement in the drive to grow the nation’s economy and improve quality of life. “We believe that this is only the beginning and that we can accomplish much more improvement in the sector, if all the stakeholders work together in partnership.

“ANED and its members are sensitive to customers’ anxiety over the recent increase in electricity tariffs,” the statement said. It said that customers should know that the increase in tariffs was necessary for improvement of electricity infrastructure that had suffered decades of neglect.

“The increase will help to mitigate the negative cash flow and revenue shortfalls that have bedevilled the sector,” the statement said.



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Copyright 2015 SIGNAL. Permission to use portions of this article is granted provided appropriate credits are given to and other relevant sources.

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