NEWS

Electricity: Labour Calls For Tariff Hike Reversal As Protests Begin Today

The protests are expected to result in the closure of the Abuja headquarters of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Ministry of Power, and state offices of power distribution companies.

By Arex Stefani

Today, the organised labour will begin nationwide protests against the increased electricity tariff and the removal of subsidy from the power sector by the Federal Government.

The National Treasurer of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Olatunji Ambali, and the National Deputy President of the Trade Union Congress, Tommy Etim, confirmed the planned protests to The PUNCH in separate interviews on Sunday, insisting on reverting to the subsidy era tariff.

The protests are expected to result in the closure of the Abuja headquarters of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Ministry of Power, and state offices of power distribution companies.

The NERC announced the tariff hike for Band A customers at a press briefing in Abuja on April 3, revealing an increase from N68/kWh to N225 per kilowatt-hour, a 240 percent increase. This move removed the subsidy from the tariff of customers in the Band A category, constituting about 15 percent of the total 12.82 million power consumers in the country.

The House of Representatives, organised labour, the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture, electricity consumers, and civil society organisations have all demanded a reversal of the hike to the subsidy era tariff. The House called on the NERC to immediately suspend the implementation of the new electricity tariff nationwide.

Nevertheless, the NLC and the TUC maintained their stance on reverting the tariff hike while expressing discontent with the inconsistent power supply in the nation, citing its detrimental impact on economic development.

Addressing attendees at the International Workers Day celebration in Abuja on May 1, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, asserted that the government should not set tariffs in a sector that has already been deregulated.

The TUC President, Festus Osifo, also faulted the hike, saying, “It is unethical to force Nigerians to pay higher tariffs for non-existent electricity. Estimated billing is an extortion and daylight robbery against Nigerians.”

The unions handed down a one-week ultimatum and threatened to picket NERC offices should a total reversal of the tariff to the subsidy era was not done. The ultimatum by Labour expired on Sunday (yesterday).

The National Treasurer of the NLC, Ambali said, the union had fully mobilised its members and affiliates for the protest against the tariff increase.

 “We commend the Federal Government on halting the cyber security levy; however, labour is fully mobilised for the electricity tariff hike protests across the country.”

Corroborating Ambali, the National Deputy President of the TUC, Etim, noted that the organised labour was ready for the nationwide protests at the NERC offices.

“Of course, Labour is fully mobilised for the protests which will start tomorrow (Monday.)

Also, a top official of the NLC, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on behalf of the union, stated, “Picketing would start today not only at the offices of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission but also in all the distribution companies across the nation.”

He said the mobilisation of workers and affiliate unions was ongoing, adding that meetings were held on Saturday and Sunday by the NLC and TUC to fine-tune strategies for the labour action.

“We enjoin the civil societies, organisations, market women, and students to join organised labour because it is a collective battle, and we are all collectively being afflicted by the wicked policies of the government,” he noted.

“Collectively, we can push that back. As you can see, we have fought the issue of the cyber security levy and they have agreed to withdraw it.

“Together, if we fight this problem, one by one we will compel government’s actions that are anti-people to be pushed back. Don’t leave it to the NLC and the TUC but join us at the barricade so that together, we can compel the government to do the needful,” he appealed.

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