MASS STRUGGLE UNTIL ELECTRICITY TARIFF HIKE IS REVERSED!
MASS STRUGGLE UNTIL ELECTRICITY TARIFF HIKE IS REVERSED!
NLC and TUC Should Lead Sustained Mass Actions Until the Hike is Reversed and Pre-paid Meters Provided to All Consumers.
Despite mass opposition to the tariff hike and subsisting order of the Federal High Court, the Distribution Companies (DISCOs) have gone ahead to implement the outrageous new tariff that will make consumers across the country pay an increment of at least 45% from February 1, 2016.
WE CAN’T PAY! WE WON’T PAY!
The working masses cannot afford any hike in tariff because our incomes have been eroded by the rising inflation. The situation has been worsened by the current foreign exchange crisis which is shown by the free fall of naira at the parallel market. This has resulted in high cost of goods and services, lowering of the purchasing power of the masses and low patronage of goods. The N18,000 minimum wage has been further eroded by the ever rising inflation but Buhari’s government has placed a wage freeze while political office holders still earn mind-boggling and outrageous salaries and allowances. Many workers are owed backlog of salaries and many governors have threatened workers with a mass sack, something that was carried out by Rochas Okorocha in Imo state before he was forced to back down by mass action of the trade unions (NLC and TUC).
The hike in tariff is a flagrant disobedience of a subsisting court order. On May 28, 2015, Justice Muhammed Idris of the Federal High Court Lagos gave an order that electricity tariff must not be hiked pending the determination of the suit brought before it by a human right lawyer, Mr Tolu Adebiyi. Besides, the NERC and DISCOs are bringing forward all manners of frivolous applications through their lawyers with the aim of delaying or rendering the matter in court useless.
Due to public opposition to the exploitative “Fixed Charge,” NERC has now expunged it while cleverly accommodating it in the new tariff template. To be clear, the implementation of the new tariff is a reflection of the state of impunity and lawlessness of the federal government. This goes to show that the federal government is committed to imposing more hardship on the people while protecting the profit interest of the private companies in the power sector. Electricity supply has not fundamentally improved in many areas. People are being forced to pay for darkness. Despite promises of metering every consumer within 18 months of privatization, a majority of the population has no prepaid meters and outrageous estimated billing is widespread. Instead of investing in power facilities in order to improve supply the executives of Discos are brazenly paying themselves outrageous money as salaries and allowances. For instance, the CEO of Abuja DISCO is reportedly earning 36million monthly! Sam Amadi the former NERC Chairman reportedly earned N7 million monthly and got about N400 million as severance package for working for just 5 years. This jumbo pension is enough to pay about 13 civil servants earning N100, 000 monthly and for 25 years!
PRIVATIZATION IS NO SOLUTION
The situation in the power sector today illustrates just why privatization and profit interest do not benefit society. Nigeria has the 7th largest proven gas reserves in the world with about 200 tcf and it is a shame to have a problem supplying gas to power plants whereas the oil companies flare about 2 bcf/pd of gas. Gas is transported to Ghana and few other West Africa countries through West Africa Gas Pipeline Project (WAGP) over a distance of about 620 miles whereas transporting gas to power plants in Nigeria with a distance of less than 200 miles has become extremely difficult. Nigeria produces 5 billion scf of gas every day and exports 4 billion scf and shockingly retains just 1 billion scf for domestic use with preference to industries while power plants are left with little. Only an anti-poor government and ruling class can make this happen.
The market logic that rest on profit for a few has made it possible for big oil companies in collaboration with Nigerian ruling elite to keep exploiting the oil and gas reserves while the masses suffer. Hence, it is not a fantasy that Nigeria has the lowest per-capital electricity consumption in sub-saharan Africa despite spending a whopping sum of $20 billion since 1999.
To illustrate the blatant profit motive that now rules in the power sector since privatization, the Distribution Companies have devised a policy that supplies electricity to mostly communities and business ventures where they are deriving more revenue from. For instance, Lemmy Industry based in Aboru area of Lagos is supplied electricity for 22 hours daily on the average while the community residents get electricity for just 5 hours daily. In a “special plan,” Egbin Power plant reached an agreement to supply Eko DISCO additional 100 megawatt for customers within Lekki and environs who will pay more than the current tariff hike. According to the Corporate Communications Manager of Eko DISCO, Mr. Godwin Idemudia, “â€¦power will be stable to these areas almost at all times”.
To show the lack of capacity, the power companies are cap in hand begging the government for bailout and have actually gotten about N50 billion without any noticeable improvement. For instance, the Georges Dam based in China which is the biggest hydro-electric dam in the world was built for a sum of $26 billion and supplies 22,500 megawatt while Nigeria has spent over $20 billion in the power sector but has only just reportedly reached a total of 5000 megawatts (ThisDay Feb 4, 2016). This speaks volume of the level of waste and corruption in the sector.
Privatization brings with it more exploitation and suffering for the working masses. This is one of the reasons we were opposed to privatization of power utility in the first instance. In less than 4 years, electricity tariff has been hiked twice, yet supply of electricity remains more epileptic while overbilling through estimated billing is the order of the day. This is aside the fact that the power utilities were sold at rock-bottom price to the power companies. The way forward is for the oil and gas companies including the power sector and other commanding heights of the economy to be nationalized (owned publicly) and unlike in the past with NEPA etc, placed under democratic control and management of workers and consumers as a means of preparing and implementing a plan that will efficiently and prudently guarantee uninterrupted power supply for all in the shortest possible time.
We welcome all the steps taken by the NLC and TUC including the picketing of Distribution Companies on Monday February 8, 2016. However, we want to point out that a one-off picketing will not be enough to resist the implementation of the new tariff hike. Moreso, the wave of attacks on workers’ rights including the recent sack of 400 Ikeja Electric (IE) workers deserve a decisive response from the entire labour movement. Therefore, the next phase should be mobilisation by the NLC and TUC for a 24 hour warning general strike and mass protest to fight for the following:
- Reversal of the tariff hike
- End to crazy billing. End to reconnection fees and other exploitative charges
- Provision of prepaid meters to all consumers
- Overhaul of electricity infrastructures including electric poles and wires as well as the replacement and provision of new transformers to all communities.
- Stable and regular electricity supply to all consumers. No to channeling of electricity supply to high-Demand Commercial customers because of profit at the expense of poor communities.
- Improved pay and conditions for electricity workers. An end to casualization. All power companies must- respect the rights to unionize and collective agreements.
- Renationalization of the power sector under the democratic control and management of workers and consumers.
ïƒ˜ For the labour movement to form a new mass workers party to lead a common struggle to end capitalism and enthrone a workers and poor people’s government armed with socialist policies.