NO TO ELECTRICITY TARIFF HIKE
NO TO ELECTRICITY TARIFF HIKE
By Aj Dagga Tolar
With over N4 trillion of public fund spent on electricity in the past sixteen years, there is particularly no reason whatsoever why any part of the country should be in darkness, and yet the situation on ground is that many communities in the country are not even connected to the national grid.
In the past two years of privatization, Nigerians have had to pay stupendous amount of money to the electricity distribution companies (DISCO’s) in form of fixed charge of N750 by over 25 million households and a regime of crazy/estimated bills that could be as high as N20, 000 monthly for residential consumers. It is clear that with the power privatization, the government handed us over for exploitation and super profit drive of the DISCO’s and GENCOs’ who have no capacity to generate and distribute stable electricity to Nigerians at an affordable price.
The DISCO’s have not invested in the facilities to improve the power supply all over the country these past two years. This has meant that over the period many Nigerians are still in darkness.
According to the Director-General, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Benjamin Dikki, government sold the 17 companies unbundled from PHCN for $2.6billion, and still went ahead to spend N373.17 billion on payment of workers’ entitlements. These figures show that the DISCOs and GENCO’s took over the management of electricity in the country having invested close to nothing as about 70% of the proceeds were used to settle workers entitlement. A majority of the workers are casuals with poor working condition. The privatization has also led to the loss of over 50% of the workforce in the power sector, something that has reduced the capacity to guarantee stable supply and also worsened the unemployment situation in the country.
END THE FIXED CHARGE!
The time to end the fixed charge is now after having suffered this payment for several years. Interestingly, it is Sam Amadi the boss of Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) who comes out defending it, “â€¦the fixed charge is to recover the capital and fixed cost incurred by the various operators in the industry.” This is one lie that seem obvious only to Amadi and the interest he is fronting for.
The DISCOs have stated that there will be temporary and marginal decrease while others are planning to incorporate the fixed charge into tariff rate. The consumers should insist on outright cancellation of the fixed charge and for affordable tariff, and should be prepared to struggle for the demands. Nigerians have been fleeced enough by PHCN and now the private power companies!
NO TO INCREASE IN TARIFF
For the umpteenth time the DISCOs got another approval for a new increase in the tariff regime, just days to the 2015 general election. However, apparently to win the support of the electorate, President Jonathan intervened to suspend it, thereby postponing its implementation to after the elections. In spite of an existing Court injunction granted by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, NERC and DISCOs have publicly stated that a hike in tariff will be implemented in October 2015 in clear violation of the existing injunction that is yet to be vacated if they go ahead. The next court hearing is scheduled to come up on November 24, 2015.
NERC has chosen to take side with the DISCOs against the people whose wealth and resources is used to maintain it. This has further shown that those in government are there to protect the private interest. Amadi was quoted justifying it on the excuse that it is a “global practice” for an upward review of tariff periodically whereas the price of gas has come down internationally, which is supposed to reduce tariff as a gas producing nation. This further proves how the capitalist state and its agencies will defend big business at the expense of the working masses even if these agencies carry the toga of a “regulator”.
The disposition of NERC has shown that it is more interested in guaranteeing more super profit for the DISCOs and not affordable and stable electricity for consumers. The DISCOs are also up in arms threatening that tariff at N13.24KWh per energy charge is too low and they are demanding a “Cost Reflective Tariff”. According to Sunday Oduntan, the Executive Director of the Association of the Nigerian Electricity Distributors, the DISCOs will pull out or the sector will collapse. These private companies can go ahead to severe or sabotage electricity supply in order to force the government and consumers to accept their terms. It is the more reason the re-nationalization of the power sector and placing it under workers and consumers democratic control and management is desirable to end all effort at undermining the power sector.
Tariff increment in the face of N18, 000 minimum wage and rising cost of living will leave a sour taste in the mouth. Recently, residents of Ijora Badia protested that electricity bills that hover between N5000 and N7000 is well more than their house rent, which is put at N2000 per one room apartment. The tariff rate is currently too high for residents given the epileptic power supply and the income of the working masses. At the current rate, Nigeria’s electricity tariff rate compared to the income of Nigerians is one the highest in the world, the same thing applies to the cost of production, where it accounts for 40%; so any increase now will only make life more difficult for the masses.
Some of the DISCOs have stated that there will be temporary and marginal decrease in fixed charge while others are planning to muddle the fixed charge into tariff rate while rooting for hike in tariff. The DISCOs with the backing of NERC, have proposed a new tariff that shows that R2 customers of Abuja DISCOs, Benin DISCOs and Eko DISCOs will have their tariff hiked by 79%, 63% and 25% respectively. According to Punch report of October 14, 2015, the increase in tariff will average 49.4%. This tariff will be unleashed at a period when there is mass job loss, growing rate of poverty and the most damning which is the epileptic power supply.
Some of the proponents of privatization and tariff hike have argued that the tariff is too low compared to the cost of fueling a generator. The reality is that industries produce more efficiently with far less cost of production compared to small production. Hence, there is no basis for comparison. The usage of generators was forced on those who had no other option and it is one the major reason cost of production and services is on the high side.
So while welcoming the position of the House of Representative in halting any attempt at increasing tariff, the Nigerian working people cannot solely rely on the National ASSEMBLY; we must not forget the fuel subsidy struggle of 2012 wherein in the beginning most of them sounded loud in opposing it only to capitulate in the heat of the struggle, the lesson being that the working people can only consistently rely on themselves. The mass resistance and campaigns against planned tariff hike, fixed charge and epileptic power supply in Ajegunle, Okota, Aboru, Agege and elsewhere as well the case filed at the Federal High Court by Barrister Tolu Adebiyi stopping the planned tariff hike for now have helped to checkmate the exploitative plans of DISCOs, GENCOs and NERC. We call on the working masses across communities to intensify the resistance in the coming period including non-payment of electricity bills should they go ahead to hike tariff.
The Buhari government has said repeatedly that it will not reverse the privatization program and will consolidate the ongoing neo-liberal policies. This policy direction will not guarantee affordable tariff and stable power supply for the vast majority. It is only massive public investment in the power sector combined with the nationalization of the electricity sector and other commanding heights of the economy under the democratic management of the working people that can guarantee affordable and uninterrupted electricity.
We in DSM call on all the various groups in the various communities active on the campaign against electricity exploitation to unite into a common platform to provide coordinated leadership to this campaign against increase in tariff. The NLC, TUC, and all pro-working people Organisation like JAF should commence a national day of ACTION to resist fixed charge, tariff hike and other exploitative policies.