10 February 2015, Abuja – The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that the legislature is reviewing the positions of stakeholders on the increase in electricity tariffs nationwide.
He said the House would make its position known to Nigerians next week.
Reacting to the protest in a text message sent to our correspondent on Monday, Gbajabiamila said, “Our (House of Representatives) ad hoc committee headed by Babajimi Benson is reviewing all documents forwarded by the stakeholders such as the discos, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission and electricity consumer agencies and I assure you that the position of the House will be available early next week.”
Gbajabiamila’s statement came on the heels of protests by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, who described the increase as unnecessary.
The NLC said it embarked on the protests after repeatedly calling on the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission to suspend the recent increase in tariffs.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who described the tariff hike as outrageous, in a statement, said it was the fifth tariff increase in a row since 2011, insisting that it was unacceptable.
Meanwhile, a former Minister of Works, Adeseye Ogunlewe, says the ongoing nationwide protests by workers, which grounded commercial activities in several cities in the country, were unnecessary.
The government’s 45 per cent increase in electricity tariffs took effect from February 1, 2016.
Ogunlewe said the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government should not be blamed for the hike in the tariffs because it was ‘business and no longer a political matter’.
Speaking in an interview with our correspondent on Monday, the former minister said the increase in electricity tariffs was justified by the high cost of generating electricity and because it would encourage investment in the sector.
According to him, the labour groups should have given the electricity distribution companies one or two years to perfect their plans.
The Peoples Democratic Party chieftain said the labour groups could then protest if power distribution did not improve after one or two years.
He said, “The ongoing protests are meaningless and coming too early. The hike in electricity tariffs should not be blamed on the Federal Government because it’s no longer a political issue but a business matter.
“The sector has been privatised. Let the discos do their job. Let us give them one or two years and if power distribution does not improve, then they can protest.
“We had clamoured that the sector should be privatised. That has been done. Electricity is expensive, so we need to open room for investment. The NLC and other groups should be patient; they should give them a period of grace.”
Ogunlewe also commended the Lagos State Government for its recent intervention in the area of crime prevention, noting that the government should not relax in its efforts to check crime in the state.
He urged Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to focus on providing more job opportunities.