NO TO HIKE IN ELECTRICITY TARRIFF!
NO TO HIKE IN ELECTRICITY TARRIFF!
NUEE/NLC Should Lead National Mass Actions And 48hr Warning General Strike
By Ayo Ademiluyi
In another major grand onslaught on the working masses, the Jonathan regime has introduced a new electricity tariff beginning from June 1 with an increment of about 88%. For instance, a customer of the Eko Electricity Distribution Company Plc in the R2 category will pay N13.03 per Kilowatt from the previous uniform rate of N7.30. This is just part of the overall agenda of the capitalist ruling elite in Nigeria to privatize the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and guarantee the so-called investors huge profits with little or no investment put in the sector. Aside the hike, consumers will have to contend with other unwarranted charges in the bill. If the Punch report of May 30, 2012 is anything to go by, electricity tariff would continually be increased until at least 2016.
As is often the case the government is trying to hide its real intentions by claiming that the increase in tariff will attract investors into power sector. In other words, Nigerians must pay heavily for electricity that is hardly available in order to gratify the drive for super profit of the so-called investors. This hike like several other attacks will make the already vast majority of poor people poorer and without guarantee for improved power supply.
Similarly the government is attempting to exploit the completely natural frustration with NEPA/PHCN’s failure to win support for privatization. But privatization is not about meeting peoples’ needs, rather it is meant to provide a new avenue for capitalists’ profit making. It should be recalled that about 20 private power companies have been issued licenses since 2005, yet none of them has so far been able to add a single megawatt of electricity to the national grid .This includes Geometric Power Ltd located in Aba owned by Professor Barth Nnaji, who is the current Minister of Power! These companies, which cannot build their own independent power outfits, are among those set out to buy the PHCN facilities at give away prices.
The Olusegun Obasanjo regime spent about $16billion on the power sector with practically nothing to show for it. The House of Representatives’ Panel on the Power Sector revealed that about $6.2 billion was paid to contractors that have no record of registration with Corporate Affairs Commission.
The entirety of the Jonathan’s Roadmap on Electricity Power Reform is a mega-fraud meant to hand over publicly owned enterprise (PHCN) to the looters in government and the private sector vampires. Vice-President Namadi Sambo who owns Manyatta Engineering Services Ltd has a contract to build 330/132 Kv power transmission lines and Umuahia substations; Senator Okon Aribena (owner of Arik) is the contractor handling Aloji Power Station; Roseline Atu nee Osula reportedly fronts for Obasanjo as MD Ziglasses and Obasanjo himself owns Sun Electric based in his farm town, Ota.
NO TO BLACKMAIL OF ELECTRICITY WORKERS!
However, there is attempt by the government go place the entire blame for the crises in the power sector on the shoulders of the electricity workers. The Nigerian public is made to believe that it is the incompetence and corruption of electricity workers that make PHCN to be inefficient.
Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji accused officials (workers) of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria of illegal collection of ‘”processing fees for metering or before application for electricity is processed” (The Guardian, May 14, 2012). While it is true that some workers engage in illegal activities and extortion, it is the successive top government officials in the management of PHCN who are responsible for the present rotten state of the company.
STRIKE BACK AT ELECTRICITY TARRIFF HIKE!
NUEE has been keeping up an active campaign against PHCN privatization and mass job layoffs in the power sector with rank-and-file layer playing an active role. The growing mass anger against the electricity tariff hike by the wider public offers NUEE a golden opportunity to clearly link its opposition to power privatization with the attack on the mass of Nigerians through the tariff hike and win the broad layers of the working masses to the its campaign.
However, the struggle must not be left alone to NUEE. The NLC has already condemned the planned electricity tariff increase. But this is not enough. The NLC must issue a 2 week ultimatum to government to reverse the decision failing which there will be a 48 hour warning strike as the next step of the struggle. The period of the ultimatum should be used to organize and sensitize the wider Nigerian public on the adverse effect of the electricity tariff hike and prepare them for mass action to defeat it. This must involve building action committees from community to state and national levels drawing union activists, socialists, civil society groups, consumers’ associations, youth and students in building a mass resistance. Such a movement from below is essential as part of an effort to prevent a repeat of January’s aborted anti-fuel price struggle when the Labour leaders unnecessarily retreated. The struggle must not be limited to electricity tariff but linked to the struggle against the entire anti-poor policy of privatization. This has meant that the Labour leadership must hearken to the growing call for its withdrawal from the National Council on Privatization and all strategic partnership with government.
REJECT POWER PRIVATISATION! SRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRATIC CONTROL OF PHCN!
Prof. Nnaji claims that for Nigeria to wash off the stigma of power outages like other emerging nations such as Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia have done, the only way is to pay cost reflective tariff. This is a pure deception as the tariff being paid is mostly outrageously rip-off considering the state of epileptic power supply and the outrageous bills. The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has claimed that only 10% out of 400 privatized firms in Nigeria are functioning at optimal level showing that privatization is not working and indeed not the solution to the crises.
Equally, as against the claims of Prof.Barth Nnaji that privatization is working in other countries, international survey has shown that privatization of electricity has brought more woes than good news. For example, the power generation situation in Iran, an equally developing country which was at the same level with Nigeria about twenty years or so has moved to over 60,000 MW. The electricity system in Iran is publicly owned.
However, in arguing that the PHCN be kept public, it is only on the basis of being democratically run with the involvement of elected representatives of workers and consumers in the management of the power sector. This is necessary for a genuine, democratically managed and supervised plan to electrify the whole country. This will ensure that investment in the power sector with public resources will engender qualitative improvement in power generation, adequate supply and affordability.
However, all the pro-establishment political parties (PDP, ACN, APGA, ANPP) endorsed the tariff hike. This underlines the need for a revolutionary working people’s political alternative through which privatization and other IMF/World Bank neo-liberal policies will be overthrown and replaced with a genuine democratic socialist alternative, which will put the commanding heights of the economy into the control of working people themselves. This is one of the reasons why the DSM has taken the initiative to form the Socialist Party of Nigeria. The SPN will put forward a clear independent political programme for the mass of working people and would be in the forefront of building a mass resistance against tariff hike and other forms of capitalist neo-liberal attacks.