Electricity tariff hike: Labour demands reversal as protests begin today

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The organised labour will on Monday (today) commence nationwide protests over the electricity tariff hike and 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, who confirmed the planned protests to The PUNCH in separate interviews on Sunday, insisted on the reversal of the tariff hike to the subsidy era.

 

The labour action is expected to lead to the shutdown 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 hike in the electricity tariff for Band A customers at a press briefing in Abuja on April 3, revealing that those affected would pay N225 per kilowatt-hour, up from the previous rate of N68/kWh.

 

The hike represented a 240 per cent increase.

 

The development marked the removal of subsidy from the tariff of customers in the Band A category, who constituted about 15 per cent of the total 12.82 million power consumers across the country.

Based on the tariff hike, the Federal Government said it would save N1.5tn.

 

The government stated that the decision took effect on April 3, 2024, adding that Band A customers would enjoy up to 20 hours of power supply daily.

 

However, the House of Representatives, organised labour, the Nigerian Bar Association, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, electricity consumers and civil society organisations, demanded a reversal of the hike to the subsidy era tariff.

 

The House called on the NERC to suspend forthwith the implementation of the new electricity tariff nationwide.

But justifying the increase during an investigative hearing held by the Senate Committee on Power, Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, argued that there would be a nationwide blackout in the next three months if the increase in electricity tariff was not implemented.

 

He said this after the Senate Committee, chaired by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, rejected the new tariff regime.

 

“The entire sector will be grounded if we don’t increase the tariff. With what we have now in the next three months, the entire country will be in darkness if we don’t increase tariffs. The increment will catapult us to the next level. We are also Nigerians. We are also feeling the impact,’’ Adelabu declared.

However, the NLC and the TUC insisted on the reversal of the tariff hike even as they expressed dissatisfaction with the epileptic power situation in the country, saying that it is affecting economic growth.

 

Speaking at the International Workers Day celebration in Abuja on May 1, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, submitted that the government cannot fix tariffs in a sector that was already 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).

In a move to appease the unions, the NERC last week Monday ordered a downward review of the tariff from 225/kWh to 206.8/kWh, representing approximately an 8.1 per cent reduction.

 

The commission attributed the cut to the relative appreciation of the naira in the official foreign exchange window.

 

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