Labour unions protest electricity hike

Lawan Hamidu in Abuja, Acheme Jack in Kano, Tunde Akanbi in Ilorin. Pictures by Martha Obi

Labour unions in Nigeria have held protests across the country against the recent hike in electricity prices.

In Abuja, the unionists led a massive crowd to the country’s National Assembly, which promised to work with the Executive arm of government to amicably resolve the increase in power tariffs introduced eight days ago.

The Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, addressed the coalition of labour unions and civil society groups, protesting the increase of electricity price.

He said the 8th National Assembly would not do anything that would adversely affect millions of Nigerians who voted for positive change in the country.

Presenting their protest letter to the Senate leadership, the National President, Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, demanded an immediate reversal of the new price regime and called on the distribution companies to make pre paid metres available to all consumers.

The unions demanded investigations into the privatization of public properties and the involvement of Nigerians in any decision to increase power tariffs.

The National Assembly has, for the past two weeks, been engaging stakeholders in the power sector on the power tariff increase.

Kano protests

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) picketed the Kano Electricity Distribution Company, KEDCO, on Monday as part of their planned nationwide protest against what they described as the unlawful hike of electricity tariffs.

Members of the unions who gathered at the Post Office road in the heart of the ancient city, were seen chanting series of solidarity songs at the entrance gate of the KEDCO office, as well as carrying placards with various inscriptions such as: “Trade union say no to unilateral and unlawful electricity increase”, “Baba buhari! Save Nigeria” among others.

KEDCO covers the three states of Kano, Jigawa and Katsina in north western Nigeria.

Chairman of the State Chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ado Minjibir, who spoke on behalf the unions , said their mission was to let the general public understand the cost implications of the 45% sudden hike of electricity tariffs, saying it was now left for them to decide whether to pay or not.

“We are not saying that there is no significant increase in the power supply but it is not tangible enough to warrant the tariff increase. We are here to speak on behalf of the customers based on our understanding of the situation as a union. But if some customers felt they are satisfied with the current power delivery and would want to pay, let them go ahead but if they are not satisfied let them not pay,”  stressed Minjibir    

On what appeared to be a slight disagreement among the unions, the National Association of Electricity Employees, NUEE, through its state chairman, Nasiru Ado Gezawa said the protest was wrongfully targetted at distribution companies.

He felt it was better directed to the regulatory body that effected the hike.

“We are not in support of the power tariff hike as a union but we are not here to picket any distribution company. The Nigeria government through the Nigeria Electricity Regulation Commission made the law on the price hike since 2015, so the annoyance should be directed to them and not the distribution companies. “ explained Gezawa.

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Also on his part, the KEDCO Public Relations Officer, Mr Muhammed Kandi described the picketing as a misplacement of priority.

“The minister of Power, Raji Fashola has briefed the National House of Assembly on the matter that tariff hike by the DISCOs is within the ambit of the law. So by being here today to protest is a misplaced priority,” stated Kandi.

Supporting this position, the Association of Nigeria Electricity Distributors (ANED) called on the organized labour unions to see reason in the new development, while assuring Nigerians of uninterrupted electricity supply.

The distribution companies say the new tariff will enable them to increase power supply by paying for electricity bought from the generating companies as well as buy enough meters and render other services, as they have been running at a loss since they took over as private sector operators.

But some Nigerians say they are being made to finance the distribution companies’ investment because the price hike is like putting the cart before the horse.

They argued that the companies should source for funds and improve power supply as business concerns before charging higher tariffs, which should be commensurate with consumption.

Kwara joins protest

The Kwara state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress,TUC,  joined their colleagues nationwide to protest the forty-five percent increase in electricity tariffs.

Their rally took off from Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company, Challenge, Ilorin, to Baboko Business Unit.

Speaking with VON, the state chairman of the NLC, Abdulyekeen Agunbiade said the current increase was illegal, adding that the case was already before the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos state, as filed by Toluwani Yemi-Adebiyi against the Federal Government.

He stressed that there must be dialogue between the Federal government and the stakeholders before the announcement of any decision, to allow peace to reign in the country.

Agunbiade noted that the increase in tariff was to protect the investment of a selected few and not to serve the interest of the masses.

Also speaking, the TUC Chairman,  Kolawole Olumo said there had not been any quality  service delivery by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission to the citizens and called on the federal government to find a lasting solution to the issue of epileptic power supply.

He said the increase in electricity tariffs would affect the economy of the country and implored President Muhammadu Buhari to give the masses the opportunity to voice their opinions on issues for the development of the country.

 

UO