REJECT ELECTRICITY TARIFF HIKE AND EXPLOITATIVE BILLING
For Return of Power Sector to Public Ownership but now Under Workers and Consumers Democratic Control
The power privatization has deepened the power sector crises, no significant improvement has been recorded as electricity still hovers around 3,500 MW and for a population of 200 million people. There have been four tariff hikes since privatisation while the hike that was done on January 1, 2021, was temporarily reversed after widespread outcry and rejection. As a consequence of the September/October 2020 tariff hike, tariff went up from about N21 Kwh to about N37 Kwh. Many electricity consumers were billed about N25,000 monthly on the basis of estimate and they cannot pay, thereby piling up debt on electricity consumers. The consumers who have prepaid meters get half of the units compared to pre-September 2020 tariff hereby forcing many to switch off most gadgets or remain in total darkness. This policy is affecting the wellbeing of many Nigerians and adding to production cost more than ever before while contributing to the rising cost of living.
By Abbey Trotsky
The game plan of the power companies and the government is to steadily increase the tariff such that little supply of electricity fattens the bank account of the Distribution and Generating Companies in an atmosphere of widespread darkness. With this tariff hike, Nigeria emerges as one of the countries with the highest electricity charges compared to wages earned by workers. Despite the fact that the generating companies are generating poorly, still the distribution companies have constantly rejected power wheeled to them since they can easily charge consumers on the basis of estimated bill and make profits with little or no supply.
Another exploitative policy is the rule, spearheaded by both the federal government and the Distribution Companies (Discos), that forces electricity consumers to pay for prepaid meters that in all ramifications should have been issued to all electricity consumers by the distribution companies free of charge. In order to relieve the Discos of the responsibility of providing free prepaid meters to all consumers and to create another avenue for profiteering, NERC and the federal government had to license private companies known as Meter Providers in 2018 under the exploitative Meter Asset Providers Regulation 2018 that transferred the burden of procuring prepaid meters onto consumers and at exorbitant prices (about N48, 263.37 for single-phase and about N89,069.33 for three-phase). This MAP policy failed because most Nigerians could not afford meters. Now the government is currently bailing out the Discos through the funding and provision of meters. This is the same way that the government took responsibility for all liabilities when the power sector was privatized in November 2013, including all disengagement entitlements, while most of the power sector assets (generating and distributing) were sold at rock bottom give away prices to the power companies. In total the government disbursed N27 billion to fund MAP and has recently disbursed another N18 billion towards National Mass Metering Programme.
Another exploitative policy being implemented by the Discos and backed by Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) is to segregate and discriminate on the basis of electricity supply to different bands of customers in an apartheid-styled supply that prioritises better electricity supply to rich consumers.
The percentage tariff hike since privatisation is about 140% in a country wherein the N30,000 minimum wage has been largely wiped out by the rising cost of living and growing poverty, leaving aside the fact that many states governments are yet to implement it. The Distribution Companies and the Generation Companies (Gencos) have failed woefully and incessant hikes in tariff and bailouts are reward and compensation for failure. Due to epileptic electricity supply and incessant tariff hike, cost of generating electricity for the purpose of production and service is between 30 to 40% considering, a situation that have triggered collapse of companies and job losses.
Considering the monumental exploitation and extortion, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) ought to be mobilising the working masses to resist all anti-people policies. Unfortunately, we are faced with rightwing labour leaders who are neck-deep in alliance with the bourgeois rulers in sustaining the exploitative system (capitalism). The October 8, 2020 agreement Labour leaders entered into with the government that openly endorsed privatisation and deregulation and called off the September 28, 2020 general strike speaks volume of leaders that lack alternative to the present rotten capitalist system. Due to the failure of the rightwing labour leaders, consumers, communities and organisations are organising fightback through mass meetings and protest; the power sector crises and exploitation may trigger another mass protest soon. The Coalition for Affordable and Regular Electricity (CARE) calls on the people to organise mass meetings and mass protests in communities and link these struggles under a more united platform.
The high rate of Nigerians that are not connected to the national electricity grid stands at 46%. This shows the failure of capitalism as a system that is incapable of resolving basic human needs except profit is guaranteed. The Discos and Gencos have claimed that improvement and investment is only guaranteed when the tariff is so high and profitable, but the contradiction is that the vast majority cannot afford this high tariff let alone a higher tariff considering low purchasing power and mass poverty. Since the so-called private profiteers cannot invest and are dependent on the government for a sustained bailout it is clear without any iota of doubt that the privatisation has failed. Only massive public investment and democratic management by workers and consumers can improve the power sector on a sustained basis and guarantee affordable and uninterrupted electricity supply.
Not only Discos and Gencos have failed, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) run by the bourgeois government is performing woefully considering the incessant system collapse due to lack of investment and poor transmission infrastructure. Socialists call for the reversal of privatisation and re-nationalisation of the power sector. However, it has to be stressed that the reversal of the privatisation policy without the working people taking charge of the management and control of the power sector will only usher in the same inefficiency of NEPA/PHCN. Hence, we are opposed to privatisation in the same way we are opposed to bureaucratic, undemocratic and corrupt public control and management.
The debacle being witnessed in the power sector is not just the failure of the bourgeois ruling elite but also of capitalism as a system that pursues profit and abandons peoples’ needs. Considering the obvious crises in the power sector and failure of privatisation, the way forward is a socialist policy that reverses the privatisation, renationalise the power sector and place it under democratic and transparent control and management of workers and consumers. This is the only way massive investment and efficiency will be guaranteed.
We call on leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to end their strategic partnership and sterile negotiation with the government/power companies and lead the working masses to resist this ongoing exploitation and extortion orchestrated by the government and power companies. We also call on different pro-masses’ organisations and community associations to come together to mobilize Nigerians to massively resist the electricity exploitation and end electricity privatisation.