Electricity Tariff: Labour Pickets TCN, Discos, NERC Offices, Grounds Operations

•Urges FG to cancel power sector privatisation 

•Govt says Zungeru 700 megawatt power plant ready

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi, Tony Icheku in Owerri, Hammed Shittu in Ilorin, Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan, Fidelis David in Akure and Ahmad Sorondinki in Kano

Organised labour, led by Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), yesterday, made real its threat of picketing operators of the country’s power sector and grounding operations following the recent increase in electricity tariff by the federal government.

THISDAY reported yesterday that the unions had sent notices of their protests to their units across the country, reconfirming with clear instructions on their modus operandi.

After a successful showing yesterday, labour demanded a complete reversal of the power sector privatisation and recovery of all disposed public electricity assets.

NLC and TUC made the demands while picketing the headquarters of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) as part of their rejection of recent hike in electricity tariff by government.

In the wake of the protest by the labour movement, NERC said the federal government had commissioned Zungeru 700 megawatt 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, which rejected the increase in electricity tariff and demanded its reversal.

The protesting workers stormed the premises of the regulatory commission in Abuja as early as 8am 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 breath,” “Give us affordable and constant light,” among others.

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

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

According to him, “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 accommodates millions of workers in the informal economy, is severely affected by the increases in energy cost. This has led to shutdown of businesses.”

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 were met.

He said the agreement included a review of the privatisation exercise, de-dollarisation of gas supply to electricity generation, distribution of prepaid meters 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 said the current power generated by Nigeria was not even enough for Lagos State, adding that the move by NERC to hike tariff without engagement with stakeholders in the power sector is faulty.

He stated, “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 is 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.”

Chairman of NERC, Mr Sanusi Garba, who came to address the workers after they insisted on shutting down the place, commended labour for the peaceful demonstration in respect of issues affecting the power sector.

Garba said, “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 of your call for the diversification of energy sources and I will like to say that the Zungeru 700 megawatt power plant is already on.”

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

NLC and TUC picketed the offices of the electricity distribution companies (DISCOs), NERC, and TCN across the country.

They not only sealed off the premises to protest the recent increase in electricity tariff, but also grounded operations.

In Jos, as early as 7am, workers had converged at the entrance of the main office of the Jos Electricity Distribution Company (Jos Disco), sealed the gate, and prevented staff and other visitors from gaining access into the building.

From there, they moved to the NERC and TCN offices at different locations within the metropolis to ensure that they were closed

In Ondo State, the protesting workers shutdown the headquarters of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), located at NEPA area of Akure, the state capital.

They blocked the main gate and prevented the staff of the company from gaining access into the premises, as the protesting union members demanded reversal of the tariff hike

In Kano, hundreds of protesters besieged the head offices of NERC and the Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO).

Most of the protesters were seen carrying placards with various inscriptions, such as “Stop Suffocating Us,” “Cut Down the Reckless Cost of Governance,” and “The Poor Can No Longer Breath,” among others.

Labour members also picketed the Owerri offices of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) and NERC, locking out the workers

They claimed that the regulatory bodies and EEDC had over a month ago thrown Imo residents, especially workers, into untold hardship by imposing exorbitant bills on them for services not rendered

The Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) and NERC office in the Oyo State capital also had their share of the protest. All the offices of the two bodies in Ibadan and its environs were taken over by the labour unions while the staff were forced to vacate the premises.

Customers, who were at some of these offices, especially the ones on Ring Road area, in Ibadan, were turned back as they could not be attended to.

Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, was not left out, the labour unions picketed the offices of NERC.

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