The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) and the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) yesterday made good their threat by shutting down Abuja and states over the new electricity tariffs.
There were mass protests against the new rates sanctioned by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
The Generation Companies (GENCOS) and the Distributing Companies (DISCOS) implemented the new tariffs effective February 1, this year.
The protest kicked off from the Labour House at the Central Business Area with members carrying placards.
The first point of call was the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) at Wuse Zone 4 where the NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, addressed the crowd, saying the time of taking people for granted is over. He said billing all over the world is based on what you consume. He maintained that there must be a stop to the impunity as the regulatory agency is expected to protect the interest of consumers.
“President Buhari must stand with the people as he promised Nigerians and he must revisit the privatisation of power sector. We would not allow ‘GENCO and DISCO’ exploit Nigerians, and there must be an end to the estimated billing.”.
The protesters marched to NERC office and from there went to the National Assembly where a formal letter was handed over to the leadership with security agencies giving cover.
At the National Asembly Complex, Abuja, Senate President Bukola Saraki renewed his earlier pledge that lawmakers would ensure that the hike is resolved in the interest of Nigerians.
Saraki, who addressed the rally, said the commitment of the Eighth National Assembly to collaborate with the executive in entrenching policies that are people-friendly, will not be taken lightly.
He said the Senate believes in the struggle to ensure that the right thing is done and therefore, it will resolve the impasse to avert any further unrest.
Addressing the labour leaders and members of the CSOs, he said: “I welcome you to this place because it belongs to you. We are only tenants for four years. We are here to serve the Nigerian people. I want to assure you that the Eighth National Assembly is for the people.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has described the new rates as “a painful pill,” appealing to consumers to “swallow” it.
Fashola stated this on the sidelines of the second monthly sectoral meeting with stakeholders in the power sector in Lagos, where he also inspected some projects at the Alagbon Transmission and Distribution Complex yesterday.
He said, “importantly, I understand that people who have been disappointed over a long time will feel a sense of concern that again tariffs have gone up. But the truth is that these tariffs ought to have been there from day one. I don’t know why the government of yesterday was not courageous enough to tell us this was the price.
“It is a painful pill that I must appeal that we swallow. It is like quinine and malaria. It’s painful; it’s not sweet, I know that, but I do it because we are not left with many choices. This is the first major decision in power that this administration has taken. There are other problems.
“I can only appeal for some understanding and some trust that we do this in the best interest of our country. It is a hard decision, but I think down the line, we will have cause to look…,” Fashola said.
Defending the tariffs, NERC said they were effected after series of consultations with stakeholders.
In a statement issued in Abuja, NERC said the clarification is coming on the heels of reports credited to the NLC, alleging certain infractions against the commission.
The statement signed by the Head, Public Affairs Department, Dr. Usman Abba Arabi, said while the commission will restrain itself from delving into a matter already before the court, it, however, has taken note of the ongoing protest by the NLC.
“In this regard, the commission hereby states that it is committed to act in the best interest of electricity customers and all stakeholders in the development of the electricity industry.