Tuesday, 14 May 2024 04:32

Labour unions picket DisCos, NERC’s offices nationwide over electricity tariff hike

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) spearheaded protests against the recent electricity tariff hike, targeting distribution companies (DISCOs) across the country on Monday.

Organized labour mobilized members to oppose the increase in electricity tariff for customers categorized under Band A. Approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) on April 3, the tariff surged from N66 to N225 per kilowatt for this classification.

The demonstrations saw the blockade of key DISCOs' headquarters including the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), the Jos Electricity Distribution Company (JEDC), and the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC). Additionally, protests were staged at the offices of the Yola Electricity Distribution Company (YEDC), Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC), and the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

Under the banner "Reverse Electricity Tariff Hike or Face Economy Shutdown," labour unions, civil society organizations, and concerned citizens disrupted operations at DISCOs and NERC offices nationwide. Their demands included not only the reversal of the tariff hike but also a complete reversal of power sector privatization and the recovery of all public electricity assets sold.

In Abuja, demonstrators led by NLC President Joe Ajaero and TUC President Festus Osifo converged at NERC's premises, impeding workers' access to offices. Chants of solidarity filled the air as protesters brandished placards bearing messages such as #WeAreNotAGeneratorRepublic, #EnoughOfTheExcusesGiveUsLight, and #LetThePoorBreatheGiveUsAffordableAndConstantPower.

Ajaero criticized the failure of power sector privatization and urged the government to honor agreements made with labour, including halting further tariff increases until certain conditions are met. These conditions encompass a review of the privatization process, de-dollarization of gas supply to electricity generation, and the distribution of prepaid meters to all consumers.

While NERC Chairman Sanusi Garba commended the peaceful demonstration, promising to reconsider some of the demands, protesters remained resolute in their call for a complete reversal of the tariff hike. Their dissatisfaction was palpable, with chants echoing demands for immediate action rather than further deliberation.

Adeyeye Adebiyi, National President of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), highlighted issues such as unpaid salaries, poor working conditions, and victimization of union leaders, exacerbating challenges within the sector.

Labour's discontent extended to government entities as well, with protests staged at the Ministry of Power and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). Amidst expressions of displeasure, labour leaders emphasized the need for tangible improvements in electricity generation and supply, rejecting additional burdens on Nigerians.

With warnings of a potential total strike looming, labour unions urged swift action from the government, signaling their readiness to escalate protests if demands are not met.

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