The organised labour has described as scandalous a situation where the federal government flouts existing agreements as well act in breach concerning the cessation of further tariff increase in the electricity sub-sector.
The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba spoke against the backdrop of the new electricity tariff announced by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
It may be recalled that the NERC had instructed electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) to increase tariffs, effective January 1, 2021.
The order was signed by the new NERC Chairman, Sanusi Garba and one of its Commissioners Dafe Akpeneye.
The increase in tariffs follows a suspension of an earlier order issued in August increasing tariffs starting September 1, 2020. However, a threat by Labour to go on a nationwide strike forced the government to suspend the tariffs for two weeks ending October 15th, 2020.
The latest tariff increase suggests all customers will see their tariffs increased regardless of the band unlike in the previous order where tariff class D & E was frozen. Customers on Tariff Class A, B, and C will see their tariff go back to the tariff order released on September 1st, 2020.
Some of these customers will see their tariff increase by as high as 120% compared to the pre-September 1st MYTO 2020 levels.
Customers in tariff classes D & E who are those with less than an average of 12 hours of electricity daily also saw their tariff increase albeit slightly and not up to the levels originally included in the September 2020 tariff order. In general, Nigerians (including businesses) will see their tariffs rise by as much as 75% depending on the distribution companies.
However, the NLC boss said, it was disheartening to note that the citizenry had to be made to bear a greater burden at the beginning of the year.
“If the intention of the Minister of Power, Engineer Saleh Mamman is to allay the fears of ordinary Nigerians that we would not start the new year on the pedestal of intensified hardship, then the contradictions in his statement only succeeded in reinforcing the anxiety by Nigerians that we yet again face a year where the biggest pre-occupation of government appears to be the deflection of the worst economic vicissitudes on citizens,” he stressed.
Going down memory lane, Wabba recalled that the understanding Labour had with government was to suspend further increases in electricity tariff until the committee set up by government and Labour are able to iron out the incongruities in Nigeria’s electricity sector.
He lamented that the new tariff structure as has been advertised by many of the DISCOs, the price adjustment was not minor as some of the increases were up to 60% to 100% across all the bands.
“The excuse of reflecting or rather transferring the volatilities in foreign exchange and loading the current rate of inflation on workers and other consumers already badly buffeted by the downturn in the economy signals an attitude of insensitivity by government. Unfortunately, even the poorest of the poor in Band D and E, by the admission of the Minister, were not spared of this new burden.”
He, however, insisted that “the Nigeria Labour Congress calls on government to go beyond the reversal of the recent tariff increases to adorn the robe of gentlemen negotiators. We demand that all commitments made by government to organised labour during our recent negotiations be respected. We also demand a cessation to unilateral actions that only undermine the spirit of social dialogue and erode the confidence of Nigerians on the intentions of government.
Our return to the negotiation table will be premised on firm assurances and commitment by government that future negotiations will be done in utmost good faith.”