By Shola AmodemajaÂ
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has condemned the recent comment of the Minister of Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, on the plans by the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC)
to increase electricity tariff. We understand that the former Governor of Lagos State reportedly described the plan as the only way to enhance stable power supply in the country.
TUC stated that the ministerâ€™s argument that an Act of the National Assembly actually empowers the Commission to increase tariff and that the Act cannot be tampered with even by the federal parliament, is certainly very lame, too simplistic and misleading. Any Act that preys on the masses that it is supposed to protect negates public policy.Â Â Any Act that compels the citizens to pay for services not delivered is not only flawed and undemocratic but is ultra vires the power of the Assembly to make laws for the good of the country, and should not enjoy any applicability. Any Act that further impoverishes the downtrodden and lowly is evil and should be discountenanced.Â Â We lend our voice again to advocate the need for the minister and NERC to stop trying to enforce the obnoxious Act.
Noting it is high time the minister and proponents of the tariff increase are reminded that one of the major reasons Nigerians demanded a change of leadership in May 2015 was so they could heave a sigh of relief, the congress said a major expectation was that we would, for once, stop paying for services that are not rendered.Â Â We never anticipated that the already fraudulent billing system would be made worse. We saw no NERC/FASHOLAGATE in the horizon!
President of TUC, Comrade Bala Kaigama said â€œWhile we agree that the cost of procuring raw materials to generate electricity could be high, does it make any economic sense that the poor barber who still finds himself having to fuel his small generator even at the current high rate should be made to pay more for a service whose supply is very irregular and uncertain?
â€œWith the benefit of hindsight it has become evident that the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was a well-crafted ploy to deceive Nigerians into believing that it would address their pains. In summary, we vehemently oppose the proposed tariff hike for the following reasons: The planned increment is dictatorial.Â Â Due process stipulated in extant laws for such increment was not observed.Â Â We refer especially to Section 76 of the Power Sector Reform Act 2005.
â€œThere has been no significant improvement in service delivery.Â Â Worse still the vast majority of consumers are yet to be metered in accordance with the signed privatisation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of 1st November, 2013 which stipulated that all consumers should be meteredÂ within 18 monthsgestation periodâ€.
Kaigama stated further that â€œThere is 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 vs NERC & Ors. that no increment be made until the determination of the substantive suit. Any increment at this time would be failing to take cognisance of the present biting economic recession in the country and would further impoverish the poor masses.
â€œThis is no time for government to hike electricity tariff.Â Â Rather, power investors should work more to give consumers substantially improved service. Their contrary decision borders on insensitivity to the plight of consumers.Â Â It is a case of putting the cart before the horse.
Noting that the power investors should invest more in infrastructure to improve on generation and distribution capacity, he said Privatisation in any part of the world is meant to inject fresh funds into the concerned sector, and not to impose ridiculous tariffs on the groaning masses. The power situation in Nigeria is proving the reverse.Â
He assured Trade Union Congress of Nigeria will steadfastly resist the satanic Act and its advocates until the right things are done.