AGO PALACE/OKOTA UNITED PROTEST AGAINST DARKNESS IN THE COMMUNITY
AGO PALACE/OKOTA UNITED PROTEST AGAINST DARKNESS IN THE COMMUNITY
Residents Hold Protest March against Poor Electricity Supply and Exploitation
No light, No payment! No light, No disconnection!
By Moshood Osunfunrewa
Protest March – photo DSM
It is no news that the electricity supply crisis has jumped out of the frying pan into the fire since the private firms called GENCO’s and DISCO’s took over the PHCN. It was bad enough under the PHCN but the situation has gone much worse under the private companies which are busy disbursing darkness but reaping billions as profit.
It was terrible conditions that made residents of the Ago Palace/Okota communities and environs in Lagos on Thursday, 14 May, 2015 to troop en masse to the street in a protest action against extortionate bills by the Ikeja DISCO (Ikeja Electric) for the service not rendered. “No More Payment for Darkness!” the protesters chanted. For no supply for the majority of days in a month or as little as 3 minutes of power a day for few days in a month the residents of these communities are forced to pay huge sums as tariff at the end of each month or face disconnection from electricity power supply.
The protest started from Mosebolaje Street and first went round the community to mobilise the residents. It formally took off in Ago Palace Way and moved through Roundabout to the office of IKEJADISCO, Oshodi Business Unit, at Cele. As the protest moved it surged on with more and more joining and lending their voices to the demands of the protest. The crowd grew up so large that the traffic was seriously held up. At the end of the action about one thousand people had participated.
It was significant that the protest attracted a huge crowd from middle class neighbourhoods where house rents range from N250,000 and N500,000. This shows the depth of suffering and anger in the communities.
Four members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) participated actively at the protest rally and circulated the leaflet produced by the DSM which articulate all the issues involved. The flyer, which was the only one available at the protest, made it possible for passers-by to become acquainted with the demands of the protest. About 1,000 copies of the leaflet were distributed while 3 copies of Socialist Democracy, the paper of DSM, were sold. Dagga Tolar, NEC member of DSM, was one of the three official spokespersons of the rally. The rest were Mr. Bankole and Alex Chaha.
Disco management have no answer
Dagga Tolar, DSM NEC member, speaking to journalists – photo DSM
The gate of the IKEJADISCO office was locked when the protesters got there. Initially there was attempt by the protesters to force it open before the leadership calmed them to allow for a civil conduct to prevail. Soon there was a request for the management to come down and receive the protest letter from the community. A delegation of 6 persons was agreed upon to go inside and meet the management, while the crowd of protesters continued with their chants outside. By now the protest had had the Division Police Officers (DPOs) from Ago Palace and Okota physically leading their men to ensure that the protest was peaceful. The DPOs joined in the meeting with management as observers.
Engineer Oyewole, the Business Manager of the Oshodi unit of IKEJADISCO, while responding to the protest and the petition from the Ago United/Okota Community Movement blamed the instantaneous erratic power supply on poor generation and lamented that even their office is run on generator set for 24 hours. One cannot then but wonder why Nigerians expect those that rely on generators for their own electricity to provide them with electricity supply!
It was pointed by the delegation that you do not pay for fuel if you don’t get it at the fuel station, you return home with their empty Jerry cans and money in your pocket. On the contrary with DISCO, it is no light and payment for darkness as well as a compulsory N750 charge, VAT charge, etc.
It was obvious that nothing would come out of the meeting with the DISCO management. This point was made to the crowd who had all stood patiently all through singing and chanting till the delegation came out. Dagga Tolar gave the report of the meeting with the management. He stressed that the meeting was only successful to the point that the petition had been delivered and that the demand of “No light, No Payment” must stand!
For a re-nationalised power sector that carries out an electrification plan
Protesters – photo DSM
The DSM will argue for a national campaign on the electricity issue as struggle continuously breaking out in many communities across the country especially in Lagos. For instance, on Wednesday May 20, there will be a protest at Akinola Aboru area near Iyana Ipaja Lagos in which members of the DSM are playing active role in organising. All these protests can help build a mass movement of workers and community people against electricity privatization. The electricity workers’ union, which was originally opposed the privatisation before the union capitulated apparently because of lack of mass support and solidarity from the leadership of NLC, must return to the trench.
Good enough, more and more people are coming to the conclusion that electricity privatization is a failure. Indeed, one of the demands of the Ago Okota community protest action is the reversal of the sale of the PHCN (NEPA), the defunct public electricity company. It is clear that the private firms that bought the PHCN at the rock bottom price do not have both financial and technical capacity to turn around the sector. This explains why the government had to grant them a bailout just a year after the takeover of power companies. However, as we argue in the leaflet circulated, in order to avoid a repeat of the debacle of the PHCN (NEPA) the electricity sector if it is renationalised has to be placed under a democratic control of workers, consumers and relevant professionals. This will ensure that the resources available will be judiciously utilised to guarantee stable electricity supply for businesses and domestic use.
Of course it is clear the electricity, like other key sectors of the Nigeria economy, requires massive state investment with democratic management to prevent looting and corruption. It is clear the incoming Buhari government, being pro-capitalist, cannot meet such demand for public ownership with democratic control. Only a working peoples’ government can dare to renationalise the electricity sector as well as other key sectors, provide the necessary funds and place it under democratic management and control of workers and consumers. This is one of the reasons we of the DSM have consistently called for building of a mass working people party that can identify with struggles of the working people and wrest political power from the thieving capitalist elite in order to form a working peoples’ government on socialist program. As the DSM campaigns for the formation of mass working peoples’ party by the broader labour movement, our organisation, together with some trade union and left activists, is at the same time working to build the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) as an example of a genuine working peoples’ political alternative.