President of the United Labour Congress of Nigeria (ULC) and General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Joe Ajaero, has lambasted the Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo for canvassing for higher electricity tariffs.
Last week, the Vice President, speaking at the Sixth Presidential Business Forum held in Abuja, had said higher tariffs for Nigerians were “inevitable.”
“Why is the Vice President speaking on behalf of private investors?,” a visibly irritated Mr. Ajaero said during NUEE’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Lagos yesterday. From the Vice President’s remarks, “it shows he is more interested in profit over people” and he “should apologise to Nigerians.”
Large swathes of Nigeria’s power sector were privatised in 2013, but there have been no marked improvement in the availability of electricity.
Although the current Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, oversaw an increase in electricity tariff when the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) announced a 45 per cent increment in January 2016, investors in the privatisation process say the rate still does not reflect the cost of generating and distributing the invaluable commodity.
“For how long will Nigerians continue to suffer in the name of privatisation,” Mr. Ajaero said. “Nigerians are suffering and the power situation is not getting better. I am surprised that this is not the policy of the APC, yet they are following it up 100 per cent. This shows you that there is something that meets the eye.”
On the recent force majeure declared by Power Distribution Companies, Mr. Ajaero said the government must not allow itself be held to ransom.
“This is not the first time one of these companies are declaring force majeure, contrary to the known agreement,” he said. “Yola Electricity Distribution Company (YEDC) was sold along with Ibadan Electricity, because Yola is not very attractive to investors. So they bundled them together and put them for sale. Halfway, Yola declared force majeure and the government allowed them. Since then, Yola that was not doing well is still there under government control and the power situation is better. For the past two years, the service there has been better.
“I challenge the investors to say that they are no more interested, I am telling you that we will appoint people from NUEE who will run it effectively and efficiently. Government should not listen to that level of ‘shakara’; they are making money and they don’t want to declare profit to the government. For four years, these private companies have not paid any dividend to the government, yet the government has paid them one trillion naira – what kind of business is that? So I think there is need for public hearing, for Nigerians to come and speak on what is happening in the power sector.”
Meanwhile, NUEE’s President, Martin Uzoegwu, in his address during the NEC Meeting, also condemned the non-payment of some of its members’ entitlement, post-privatisation.
“It is disheartening that after four years of privatisation of the electricity sector, some of our disengaged colleagues and members who had put in so many years in service to their fatherland are yet to receive their severance and benefits up till this moment from the federal government,” he said. “For me, that is corruption, wickedness and man’s inhumanity to man.”
He went further to describe privatisation as “capitalism” which leads to exploitation of workers. “This is why we must continue to fight against privatisation of our public institutions.”