NO TO ELECTRICITY TARIFF HIKE AND CRAZY BILLS: For Metering of all Consumers
For the Renationalization of the Power Sector Under Democratic Workers’ Control
Hike in electricity tariff in Nigeria has become persistent. If there is any new tariff increment this year, it will be the third hike in five years. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had earlier directed the electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) to increase their tariff beginning from April 1st, 2020. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, the implementation of the hike was initially postponed to July 2020 and later suspended indefinitely.
By Lateef Adams
This decision by NERC is not only insensitive but also a ploy by the federal government to further impoverish the ordinary working class people. We must also bear in mind that despite several increments made in the past, power supply in the country has largely remained epileptic with distribution still revolving around 2000 to 4000 megawatts in spite of government investing and squandering over N1.7 trillion since 2013 to bailout the private electricity companies. Therefore, the working people must resist the hike in tariff any time it is implemented.
The new tariff increment will see consumers living across Nigeria pay 40 percent to 90 percent higher rate. For instance, consumers in Abuja that used to pay N24.30 Kw/h are expected to now pay as high as N33.34 which amount to 42% increase. In Kaduna, consumers will now be charged N49.04 KW/h from N28.05KW/h which amount to 77% hike. R2T EKO DISCO Consumers in Lagos that used to pay N25.79 Kw/h will now be expected to pay N49.07 Kw/h, an increase of 90%. Consumers under Enugu DISCO have their tariff hiked by 42%, which means that a Kilowatt per hour of electricity that used to cost N30.93 will now be charged N43.16.
INCESSANT TARIFF HIKE VERSUS EPILEPTIC POWER SUPPLY
Before the power sector was privatized in 2013, government and some pro-privatization analysts argued that privatization of power sector would bring about lower tariff and efficient power supply. After about 7 years down the line, Nigerians have witnessed a reversal in power supply with many people now simply paying more for darkness. Almost every two years, the power distribution company and the NERC always conspire to either impose tariff increment or other measures that guarantee them huge profits despite continuous abysmal power supply, load-shedding and poor power distribution. In February 2016, there was an increment of about 50 percent and there has been cumulative increment of 110 percent in 4 years.
With the current state of the economy that is characterized by massive job losses and hardship faced by Nigerians, the poor working class people are expected to brace up to the challenge of paying more for electricity while the so called “investors” smile home with huge profits. The President Buhari-led capitalist government and its policies have continued to widen the inequality gap in the country. The Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC) that was constituted by the president in March 2020, revealed in its report that unemployment rate will rise to 33.6% in the country, which means about 40 million people will be jobless by the end of 2020. The maiden report of COVID-19 impact monitoring survey recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the employment and income of Nigerians have been widespread. In many of the private companies , salaries of workers were either slashed or not paid during and after the lockdown; all these, coupled with the tariff hike will make life more unbearable for many Nigerians.
While the cost of living for the ordinary masses is spiraling, the ruling capitalist elites disguising as investors are interested in milking the little income from the working class people. Although, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) after the NERC announcement, had issued a statement condemning the hike, but action is required to be taken by the organized labour to defend the millions of Nigerian workers and poor masses whose meagre pay will further be eroded by the tariff increase. The union must understand that, inflation of commodities and transportation prices during this period of COVID-19 is further shrinking the take home pay of its members. Many communities in the country have taken up the challenge by means of protest to defend themselves against exploitation by electricity providers. This exploitation by the electricity providers is carried out through unwarranted estimated billings called the ‘crazy bills’ and the union leaders must be seen to join effort with communities to end this exploitation through strikes, protests and demonstrations. A day of action to protest electricity tariff hike and payment for darkness, for instance, called for by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC), will resonate widely and be enthusiastically supported by the organized workers and the masses in the communities.
For several years, many households in the country are still without prepaid meters and the DISCOs are very much comfortable with that just because it gives them the opportunity to impose unwarranted and outrageous estimations on consumers. It is more profitable for electricity providers to bill consumers through fraudulent estimation rather than via actual consumption measured by a prepaid meter. In order to relief the DISCOs of the responsibility of providing free prepaid meters to all consumers, NERC and the federal government had to license private companies known as Meter Providers in 2018 under the exploitative MAP policy and forced electricity consumers to buy meters at exorbitant prices.. However, having a prepaid meter does not mean freedom from exploitation by DISCOs. Unjustified periodic hike in electricity tariff is aimed at making electricity consumers (prepaid meters inclusive) pay high bills for very little supply and thereby guaranteeing huge returns for the power companies, something which is a motivation and reward for failure.
There is no doubt that the privatization of the power sector has failed. The current situation of epileptic power supply that has resulted in widespread darkness in many communities as well as exploitation via tariff hike and estimated billings calls for an end to the privatization policies of government. To redeem this sector a socialist programme of re-nationalization of the power sector under democratic control and management of workers and consumers is needed. This is to guide against abuse and to serve as a means to ensuring massive investment in the sector, including renewable energy, efficiency and provision of affordable power supply. This, if linked to a socialist plan of the economy can lay the basis for a revamp of all sectors and improvement in the living standards of the mass of workers and the poor masses.