Labour Advocates Cancellation of Privatisation in Electricity Sector

Comrade Issa Aremu
Comrade Issa Aremu

Labour Advocates Cancellation of Privatisation in Electricity Sector

• Says minimum wage has collapsed

The Vice-President, Industrial Global Union and General Secretary of Textile Workers Union, Comrade Issa Aremu, has called on the Federal Government to listen to organised labour and cancel the privatisation in the electricity sector.

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Comrade Issa Aremu
Comrade Issa Aremu

Comrade Aremu stated this even as he declared that minimum wage has totally collapsed, because the purchasing power of the N18,000 minimum wage has been eroded due to the high exchange rate and inflation.

Presenting his paper at the 2017 Africa Industrialisation Day Policy Dialogue organised by Industrial Global Union, in Abuja, Comrade Aremu, said the planned Power Sector Recovery Programme (PSRP) by the Federal Government to restructure the 11 electricity distribution companies

(Discos) and take over any Disco found to be insolvent has vindicated labour that Nigeria was not ripe for privatisation.

Specifically, Aremu said the Federal Government should apologise to the National Union of Electricity Employees, who had kicked against the privatisation, insisting that it would not work.

Aremu, who emphasized that there can be no industrialisation without electricity, stated that the government should therefore cancel all the privatisation, since it had realised that it is not working

He said, “There can be no industrialisation without electricity. It was just announced that the Power Sector Recovery Programme (PSRP) recently developed by the Federal Government and the World Bank to revive Nigeria’s ailing power sector, has come up with an action plan for the sweeping restructuring of the 11 electricity distribution companies (Discos) that would enable government to take over any Disco found to be insolvent.”

“The Federal Government should apologise to the NUEE for returning to the warning that Nigeria was not ripe for privatisation. While we await the details of the action plan, Federal Government should listen to organised labour and cancel the privatisations all together.”

According to him, the textile industry in Nigeria can produce uniforms for police, customs and children rather than going to China.

He said: “Also for Nigeria to recover, it must address the current crisis of compensation. We cannot drive recovery without productivity which in turn depends on well-motivated workforce.”

“You cannot have production without productive workforce that is well motivated and paid for. As regards N18,000 minimum wage, when we signed it seven years ago, the exchange rate was N115 to a dollar. Inflation rate was single digit and now it is about 18 per cent. And today, we can use any rate; the truth is that minimum wage has collapsed.”

He stressed the need to fix the nation’s refineries and build other modular refineries, adding, however, that it was gratifying that ERGP endorses the 2014 National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP).

He said: “We must add value to the crude oil instead of exporting it, and to in turn import refined petroleum products. It is commendable that the ERGP sets to reduce petroleum products imports by 80 per cent in 2018. That’s the way to create jobs, decent and sustainable jobs in the petroleum sector.”

He regretted that Nigeria is almost back to the colonial era in which it exported raw materials and imported all finished goods; adding, “manufacturing scandalously contributes less that 3 per cent of GDP compared to the 70s in which manufacturing contribute as much as 30 per cent.”

Aremu said: “No thanks to massive factory closures caused by energy cost and prohibitive production costs.  With almost 200 million people, a quarter of Africa population, (every third African is a Nigerian and by look every African is a Nigerian). The fate of Africa with respect to development depends on Nigeria’s economic performance or lack of it.”

He commended the new Executive Order, recently issued by President Muhammadu Buhari in line with his promise on the ease of doing business.

“Of special importance to textile industry is the order mandating government agencies to spend more of their budgets on locally produced goods. This singular order would help in the recovery of the textile and garment industry,” he added.

He said: “Our current budget is N7.3 trillion. The question is, are we to link this relatively high budget to patronise made in Nigeria or refuel Chinese or Indian economies as we have been unacceptably doing?

“I think we can use this 2017 budget to turn the economy around. I am happy that a factory in Umuahia is now producing Military booths for soldiers and that alone has provided over 3000 jobs for Nigerians.”

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