Labour Unions In Nationwide Protest Over Electricity Tariff Hikes
A wave of protest is underway across Nigeria, as the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), civil society allies and electricity consumers demonstrate against the 45 per cent increase in electricity tariff.
Addressing the unions and allies before the match began, the leader of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Aliyu Wabba, said the increase was outrageous and should not stand.
“From 14 Naira per unit to 28 or 26 Naira. This increase is outrageous. When it subsists this time around, be sure that it will continue and the exploiters will continue to exploit us.
“This is the message that we are taking to all these agencies.
“We are also going to the National Assembly because they are the true representatives of the people. They feel our pulse and they represent our various constituencies and therefore they must stop all these by making laws that will actually protect the people.
“Law should be made to protect the people and not encourage exploitation,” he told the gathering.
The NLC leader also pointed out that the increase was the fifth in a roll since 2012.
Mr Wabba believes the increase will have a multiplier effect on the Nigerian economy, with manufacturing companies having to pay more for power.
“The increase is going to affect manufacturers, Medium and Small Scale Enterprises and even consumers. Every consumer must be provided with meter because people should be able to pay for what they consume and not to pay for darkness,” he stressed.
The labour leader also accused electricity companies of deliberately refusing to provide meters for consumers and using estimated billing system to exploit Nigerians.
“This should stop,” he insisted.
The increase in electricity tariff was announced by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and it kicked off on February 1.
Organised labour said that the protest had become necessary after all efforts to make NERC shelve the idea of electricity tariff increase failed.
According to labour, the due process in the extant laws for such increment was not followed in consonance with section 76 of the Power Sector Reform Act, 2005.
Organised labour also believes that there has been no significant improvement in service delivery.
“The fact is that most consumers are not metered in accordance with the signed privatisation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of November 1, 2013, which stipulates that within 18 months gestation period, all consumers must be metered,” the organised labour said.
A statement by the labour unions said that the Abuja rally would start at Labour House, Central Business District at 8:00a.m local time, before moving to the NERC head office at Adamawa Plaza, Plot 1099, First Avenue, Off Shehu Shagari Way, Central Business District.
As early as 8:00:am, members of the NLC and the TUC in the state gathered at the office of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) along Royce Rad in Owerri, the capital of Imo state, to protest the electricity tariff hike.
While barricading the main entrance to the EEDC office, the State Chairman of the NLC, Comrade Austin Chilakpu, said that less than 20 per cent of families in the state had pre-paid meter.
In Osun State, although the turnout was not so impressive, the labour unions, joined by students union in the state at about 10:00am besieged the business hub of the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company in Osogbo, the state’s capital.
The State Chairmen of NLC and TUC Comrade Jacob Adekomi and Akinyemi Olatunji, while addressing the protesters warned that, failure to see reasons with the Nigerian masses, would result in continuous picketing.
They also advised the distribution company to honour the agreement of providing metres to every Nigerian, in order for them to pay for what they use.
In Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, the NLC locked out workers of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company in line with the directive of the national body.
The State Chairman of the NLC Comrade John Ushie, said despite the epileptic power supply in the state and country, the DISCOs had continued to bill the consumers on estimation, forcing them to pay for what they could not account for.
In Kogi State the NLC and the TUC were at the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company in Lokoja to protest against the high electricity tariff.
At the head office of the DISCO in Lokoja, the Chairman of the NLC in Kogi State, Comrade Onuh Edoka, urged the Federal Government to go by the previous agreement of metering all houses before increment.