Picketing: Labour Urges FG to Cancel Power Sector Privatisation 

* Zungeru 700 megawatts power plant on, says FG 

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja 

Organised Labour has demanded the  complete reversal of the power sector privatisation and recovery of all the disposed public electricity assets.

The two labour centres — Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress(TUC) — made the demands while picketing the headquarters of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), as part of their rejection of the recent hike in electricity tariff by government.

In the wake of the protest by the labour movement, NERC said that the Federal Government has inaugurated Zungeru 700 megawatts power plant as part of measures to improve electricity supply in the country.

NERC had recently approved a hike in electricity tariff from N65/kwh to N225/Kwh for consumers on Band A classification.

But the move attracted condemnation from labour movement who rejected the increase in the electricity tariff and demanded its reversal.

The protesting workers stormed the premises of the regulatory commission in Abuja as early as 8 am to demand urgent measures to address their concerns.

They carried placards with inscriptions such as, ‘We are not generator republic,’ ‘IMF, World Bank, leave Nigeria Power Sector alone,’ ‘Let the poor breathe,’ ‘Give us affordable and constant light’, among others.

Addressing the workers, NLC President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said that from all indications, the privatisation of the power sector was a ‘colossal failure’.

He said that Nigerian workers reject the recent increase in electricity tariff and the associated upgrading and downgrading of customers from one band to another.

According  to him, the organised labour is demanding a complete reversal of the power sector privatisation and the recovery of all public electricity assets.

“As workers, we are hardest hit by the increase in electricity tariff. Unlike business people, wage earning workers cannot adjust their income when the cost of utilities are increased.

“The stagnancy in wage amidst increases in electricity and refined petroleum products push workers over and beyond the limits of sanity and survival.

“Small and medium scale businesses which accommodate millions of workers in the informal economy are severally affected by the increases in energy cost.

“This has led to shutdown of business thus affecting the Nigerian unemployment market,” he said.

Ajaero further called on government to respect the September 2021 agreement with Labour that was reinforced in the 2023 agreement that government must halt further increase in the tariff of public utilities until certain conditions are met.

He said that this agreement included the review of the privatisation exercise, de- dollarization of gas supply to electricity generation and distribution of pre paid metres to all electricity consumers in Nigeria, among others.

The NLC president also noted that before the increase in electricity tariff, NERC would have called for a stakeholders meeting for proper consultation.

Ajaero further said that the current supply generated by Nigeria is not even enough for Lagos, which is just one state in Nigeria, adding that the move by the NERC to hike tariff without engagements with stakeholders in the power sector was faulty.

He said: “We are here on a peaceful protest, having written so many letters to NERC to remind them that they cannot increase tariffs without meeting with Nigerians. We reminded them that the process of increasing tariffs requires that they meet with all stakeholders, including labour.

“We do not know where this current tariff is coming from. NERC is not oblivious to the fact that Nigeria is wallowing in lower poverty. Nigeria is down the line as one of the countries in the world that are poor in terms of power supply.

“What Nigeria is generating today is not enough for Lagos alone and it is bad enough for you now to tell us that some Nigerians are bigger than the others. It is bad enough for you to say some Nigerians will get 20 hours while other Nigerians will get two hours.”

The Chairman of NERC, Mr. Sanusi Garba, who came to address the workers after they insisted on shutting down the place,

commended Labour for its peaceful demonstration in respect of issues affecting the power sector.

“We have taken input from your demands related to the affordability of the tariff issued by the commission. We have also listened to you and we have listened to the concerns of Nigerians.

“I want to assure you that we will make adequate representation on the policy side on the issue of affordability of tariffs.

“We also took note on your call for the diversification of energy sources and I will like to say that the Zungeru 700 megawatts power plant is already on,” he said.

The protesting workers also marched to the Ministry of Power and Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to present their position.

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