*As govt warns against sabotage of electricity reforms
09 February 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja — Members of the organised labour, under the direction of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, on Monday stormed the business offices of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, AEDC, as part of a nationwide protest against the over 45 per cent increase in electricity tariffs, demanding an immediate reversal of the hike.
The NLC and TUC were reportedly joined in the simultaneous demonstrations in different parts of the country by those in the civil societies and students of tertiary institutions.
They protesters stormed the various offices of the power firms nationwide as early as 8am, chasing out some officials of the companies who had resumed for work.
In Abuja, the NLC and the TUC led the protesters to the offices of the Abuja Electricity Development Company, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission and the National Assembly.
Armed with placards that bore various inscriptions, the protesters said there was no justification for the hike, with the organised labour warning that if the decision was not rescinded, it could be forced to order an indefinite strike.
The President of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, accused the Minister of Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, of conniving with the electricity firms to fleece Nigerians.
The protesters insisted that policies of the government, which created room for Nigerians to be subjected to unjustified charges, would be resisted.
Wabba called on President Muhammadu Buhari to revisit the privatisation of the power sector as it was marred by corruption, lamenting that the current increase would make it the fifth time the tariffs would go up since the privatisation exercise was concluded.
Wabba, who said that the current tariff increase would not be accepted, added that it was the standard practice all over the world for people to only pay for what they consumed.
He said, “We will not allow a situation where a few will collaborate, including our Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatubde Fashola; we are really disappointed because he did not even respond to all the letters we wrote to him.
“This protest is to tell the Discos and Gencos that we will not allow a situation where they will continue to fleece Nigerians.”
The President, TUC, Mr. Bala Kaigama, said the labour movement would continue with the protest against the tariff hike until its reversal.
Kaigama, who observed that NERC had been ineffective, called on the government to appoint a substantive board for the commission.
The representative of the civil societies, Mr. Jaiye Gasikya, said the observed deficiencies in the sector only showed that the investors were not ready to add any value to what they met on the ground.
He said that the power firms had refused repeated calls by the organised labour and civil societies to publish their financial statements.
Meanwhile, following the nationwide protest over the hike in electricity tariff, the Federal Government has appealed to Nigerians and the labour unions to accept the review in good faith, warning that any attempt to truncate the lofty idea, would throw the country into total blackout.
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, stated that without a cost reflective tariff, gas producers will not be encouraged to supply gas to the Gencos to fire their turbines, which, he said, would translate to poor power generation.
He equally explained that a cost reflective tariff sanctioned by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), will encourage banks to lend to would be and existing players to expand their network and provide other infrastructure.
“It is important to state that the stability we have been enjoying in the market is comforting and we must do everything to protect it. That stability is giving confidence to the banks, gas suppliers and investors, Gencos and others that Nigerians can enjoy uninterupted power supply from vendors.
“A lot of people are coming into Nigeria that they want to participate in power and it is because of the stability that the government and leadership of the President Muhammadu Buhari, has provided since they came,” he stated.