SPN rallies NLC on industrial action over govt stance on electricity tariff
Workers allege sabotage by Discos
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) has supported calls by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) berating the Federal Government for going ahead with the new increment 45 per cent in electricity tariff despite a subsisting court order.
According to a statement made available to The Guardian by the SPN National Chairperson, Segun Sango, the federal government through NERC and the distribution companies had brazenly increased electricity tariff by between 45 per cent and 60 per cent despite epileptic power supply and rising poverty.
He stated that the due process in the extant laws for such an increment was not followed in consonance with Section 76 of the Power Sector Reform Act, 2005, adding that the federal government and the power companies have equally refused to honour a subsisting court order by the Federal High Court against tariff hike, which is an indication that what we have is rule of the mighty who act in their own interests.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has alleged that Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) are adding to the power outages nationwide by rejecting load from Generation Companies (GENCOs), thereby worsening power supply to customers.
Besides, the union through its General Secretary, Joe Ajaero allegde that the DISCOs have devised a means of rejecting load as a way of cutting costs adding that , the action was impacting most negatively on end users of electricity, including residents and businesses at a time the country was also grappling with one of its worst fuel crisis in history.
Although it agreed that generation to the national grid has dropped drastically to about 2,500 megawatts, it however maintained that the unpatriotic act of rejecting load allocation by the DISCOs, is encouraged by the absence of prepaid meters in most homes and offices.
“The situation allows the DISCOs to operate with estimated billing, which they foist on customers.
“The DISCOs know that whether or not they supply, they would distribute bill to their customers who must pay.
“And even the bill is estimated, not based on consumption, so it is not a surprise that they are rejecting load to slash costs. But this unpatriotic act is at the expense of helpless customers who do not have any alternative”, the union said.
Sango noted that Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) welcomes the decision of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to embark on a one-day warning general strike to press home the demand for the reversal of the electricity tariff hike and to express opposition to the lingering scarcity of petroleum products.
According to him, the rising cost of living and inflationary rate has dwarfed the earnings of workers and the masses, as the N18, 000 minimum wage has been largely undermined coupled with the fact that the minimum wage is due for review since 2015.
The SPN therefore urged the labour movement to immediately name dates for the action and convoke a national mass meeting of labour, pro-labour organizations, community organisations, students and other social groups to discuss how to prosecute and deepen this struggle.
“This kind of mass meetings should be replicated at the state, local government and community levels. From these mass meetings, strike committees should be created to ensure adequate mobilization of the people for mass support and participation in the strike and mass rallies.
“In order to continue the campaign, after the one-day warning general strike, these action committees must continue the sensitization and mobilization for further strikes and mass actions should the federal government and the power companies refuse to revert to the old tariff. This will entail massive sensitization and mobilization of electricity consumers across the country to refuse to pay electricity bills and resist disconnection until the tariff is reversed”, he added.
He noted that the power companies (Distribution Companies and Generating Companies) have shown obvious incapacity to develop the sector on a sustainable manner such that will increase the Megawatt and adequate distribution to the electricity consumers.
Ajaero, was more specific as he accused the Ikeja Distribution Company (IKEDC) as one of the DISCOS guilty of load rejection activities.
He alleged that the company was giving priority to heavy industry, from where it rakes in millions, while leaving homes and small companies within their jurisdiction in darkness.
Sango said further; “power facilities and infrastructure are decaying and getting obsolete without replacement and maintenance. The Distribution Companies have deliberately refused to issue pre-paid meters to all consumers that need them because it is money spinning and more exploitative to issue outrageous estimated billing on a massive scale.
“Currently, virtually all communities have been thrown into darkness and yet they continue to force electricity consumers to pay the outrageous tariff. This clearly shows the obvious failure of privatization of the sector. Hence, the mass opposition to the tariff hike must include a demand for the reversal of the privatization of the power sector which entails re-nationalisation of the sector.
“Taking the power sector into public ownership is not enough to guarantee affordable and uninterrupted power supply, it will require democratic control and management of elected representatives of workers, experts, consumers, communities at all levels to plan and massively invest in the sector and guarantee affordable and uninterrupted power supply within the shortest possible time.
“On the other hand, the Buhari government just like previous governments has demonstrated clearly that it is incapable of resolving the perennial scarcity of petroleum products.
“The reason is simply because the importation and distribution of petroleum products are heavily dominated by profit and private interest which invariably comes into conflict with the interests of the mass of Nigerians. Under the present order/system, getting fuel and other petroleum products must come at a cost that will only guarantee huge profit for the big and small oil marketers, the multinational oil companies, the top bureaucrats within the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and oil sector.
“This is the main reason the local refineries are deliberately sabotaged and made to continually work abysmally. It also explains why new refineries were built despite huge resources at the disposal of government. Just like the experience in the power sector, the complete deregulation and privatization of the downstream oil sector and NNPC will worsen an already bad situation and the NLC and TUC must resist this anti-poor plan.
The labour movement should use the mass movement/strike to demand and struggle for the nationalization of the oil sector and to be placed under democratic control and management of the workers, experts and consumers/communities to block looting and ensure transparency, efficiency in the availability and affordability of petroleum products, functional refineries along with an adequate distribution infrastructure”, he said.
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