Tariff Hike Can’t Guarantee Improved Power Supply, Say Electricity Workers

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Joe Ajaero
National President of NUEE, Comrade Joe Ajaero

•Fault FG’s injection of N1.7tn into privatised sector

Ugo Aliogo

Electricity workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) have condemned the recent hike in tariffs, saying that it will not improve power supply.
They also faulted the injection of N1.7 trillion by the federal government into the power sector, since its privatisation.

The General Secretary of NUEE, Mr. Joe Ajaero, told journalists in Lagos yesterday that the increase in tariffs cannot improve electricity supply since power generation relies on gas.
He also criticised the federal government over N1.7 trillion spent on the power sector despite the privatisation.

Ajaero expressed displeasure that the federal government has continued to invest more money in the electricity sector, even after privatisation.
He stated that the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) should have balanced profit with social interest, adding that the commission and the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE) are all working for the interest of the Distributing Companies (Discos).

He said: “Government is charging Nigerians tariffs based on production from gas, which is the most expensive form of generating electricity because the leaders in the generating companies are pricing the gas produced here with international market prices. It is unfortunate that government privatised the sector at N400 billion, retained 40 per cent and has spent N1.7 trillion in the same sector. Looking at it, the Discos cannot have up to 20 per cent and government has brought another N1.7 trillion upon the N400 billion already invested. Since seven years, no percentage has been added to 40 per cent share while the same shares of the workers have been allocated to them.”

He called on the federal government to hand over the management of the power sector to the union for proper accountability.
“It is sad that government didn’t review the financial losses caused by privatisation. If government doesn’t address the failure of Discos in the privatisation process, NUEE is ready to take over all the Discos in the country with our members who are engineers and run it more efficiently,” he stated.

He lamented that some of the investors managing the Discos are traders, adding that government relies on the expertise of the workers in the sector to maintain it.
He alleged that the privatisation of the power sector was designed to fail, describing it as an explosive policy to milk the economy.

“Seven years after privatisation, the country has not exceeded 4,000 megawatts of power,” he added.
Ajaero said no power plant has been constructed in the last seven years since the Discos took over, adding that Nigerians should not expect improved power supply soon.

He expressed concern that the federal government has continued to build power stations and construct lines for improved power supply in a sector it claimed to have privatised, adding that “the policy somersault is unacceptable.”

On the suspension of strike by labour to protest the hike in petrol price and electricity tariffs, Ajaero said the decisions of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) are bidding on all members.
According to him, the suspension of the strike is an opportunity for NLC and TUC to gain some relief, adding that after two weeks, the labour leaders might resume negotiations with the federal government.