Barring all odds, the organised labour would any time from now paralyze the nation’s economy as they threatened to do last week if the Federal Government should go ahead with the planned hike on the electricity tariff. Many keep wondering why continuous increase in the country of tariff without commensurate improvement in electricity supply in addition to the spiraling effect such increases would have on other sectors of the economy.
In arriving at its position, the organised labour was of the belief that such planned increment would lead to the closure of factories as well as unprecedented unemployment. National President of Non-Academic Staff Union Of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, Comrade Chris Ani who warned against the proposed increment of electricity tariff at the union’s National Executive Council, NEC, meeting in Abuja, said that “increase in electricity tariff has contributed significantly to unemployment.”
According to him, “Many of the people seeking jobs today are casualties of companies that have either relocated out of Nigeria or out rightly closed shops as a result of higher electricity tariff or its twin brother, epileptic power supply.
There was increment in electricity tariffs last year across the country and those in charge explained that the increment was the only way to guarantee improved and more regular power supply. That was to stave off Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) as well as all electricity consumers across the country’s wrath.
Nigerians had spontaneously moved to the streets in Lagos, Benin, Kano and other cities when NERC announced this increase in the last quarter of 2015. So coming on in 2016 with the increment proper, Labour and Civil Society groups were peeved with anger for the obvious reasons. They had planned massive protests in February over the 45 per cent increase in the tariff of electricity as announced by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
Part of the anger then was that there was a subsisting Court Order dated 28th May, 2015 by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, in the case of Toluwani Yemi-Adebiyi versus NERC & Others, that there shall be no further increment until the determination of the substantive suit.
The Minister of Works, power and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, said there was no going back on the increase of electricity tariff if the product is to be made available. But after all the hues and cries Nigerians decided to give the electricity authorities the benefit of the doubt and allowed the increment.
Now, one year down the road what is the assessment of electricity supply in the country? Has there been improvement to warrant another increase in tariff? Nigerians strongly believe that these questions must be answered first before any more actions.
The increment at this time from every rationing negates the present biting and prevailing economic situation vis-a-vis an attempt to further impoverish citizens.
Power generation and supply has continued to pose challenges to the economic and social lives of Nigerians in all ramifications. It is equally disheartening to note that despite decades of successive administrations efforts to tackle the many challenges that have bedeviled that sector, they have more or less yielded little or no result.
Despite this huge shortcoming, the Nigeria citizens continue to suffer the effect of epileptic power supply and are forced to pay for electricity that they hardly consume.
The resultant effect is that residents are made to spend their hard earned incomes on purchase of electricity generators and exorbitant petrol or diesel to power them. Some now go for inverters and solar panels that the country do not yet have sufficient technological know- how to sustain and bring to affordable levels for the ordinary Nigerian. This, situation is killing to most families, businesses and even drives many residents crazy and you want to ask: What is happening in Nigeria? Why is electricity generation and distribution such a difficult problem to surmount? Year in, year out, billions of dollars have been sunk by previous administration to address the problem, and all such investments seems to have gone down the drain because you just cannot reconcile the huge investments with epileptic supply.
Corruption has been blamed for the problem, yet no single individual or institution have been arrested, prosecuted, jailed or the loot for such huge investments recovered. Where is the result of the huge investments?
Industry close watchers in the power sector observe that undoubtedly, electricity billing and collections will go into overdrive, and with possible increase in tariffs and Discos employing increasingly aggressive collection practices, there is the potential for controversies as it stands today. Electricity authorities in Nigerian must wake up and evolve a workable solution because it is a shame that Nigeria appears the only country in the world with poor electricity supply to its citizens and there is no nation that can grow without adequate power supply. Every effort at developing the nation’s economy and create employment will come to naught without adequate and affordable power supply.
I believe that government at all levels should continue to invest in electricity generation and the DISCOS must be repositioned to ensure effective distribution and all stakeholders must not rest until electricity is supplied to Nigerians at affordable costs. There is no justification why Japan and China would continue to flood our markets with generators just because we can’t solve this problem for ourselves. The time to act is now.
Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Edo State