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NLC and TUC begin nationwide protest to demand reversal of electricity tariff hike

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) will today, Monday, May 13, 2024, 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 NLC, Olatunji Ambali and the National Deputy President of the TUC, Tommy Etim, who confirmed the planned protests 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.

The TUC, in a statement issued to all its council chairmen and secretaries by the Secretary of the Trade Union Congress, Lagos State Council, Aladetan Abiodun, called on all units and members in Nigeria to picket all offices of NERC and Discos nationwide today over the recent hike in electricity tariff.

Titled: “Picketing Action against NERC and Discos”, TUC said: “We write to inform you of a picketing action scheduled to take place on May 13, 2024, against the Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos).

“This action is in response to the recently announced hike in electricity tariff, which has brought untold hardship to Nigerians.

“We demand an immediate reversal of the tariff hike and a commitment to providing affordable and reliable electricity to Nigerians.”

It added in the statement that the picketing action would take place today by 6 a.m. at the following offices: EKO Electricity Distribution Plc 24/25 Marina, Lagos; NERC Ikeja Forum Office Block J. Plot 3 Otunba Jobi Fele Way, Agindigbi, Ikeja, and Ikeja Electric Plc 178 Obafemi Awolowo Way Alausa Ikeja, all in Lagos State, as well as all NERC and Discos offices nationwide.

“We urge all chairmen and secretaries to mobilise their members to participate in this action. Let us stand together to fight for the rights of Nigerian workers and citizens. Solidarity forever!”

The NLC, in a joint letter with similar tone, signed by Chris Uyot and Anka Hassan, acting general secretary and secretary general of NLC and TUC, the organised labour confirmed today’s protests at designated centres.

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