Angry reactions as Federal Government plans hike in electricity tariff
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Trade Union Congress (TUC) and civil society organisations, CSOs, yesterday rejected the planned 40 per cent hike in electricity tariff, which takes effect on July 1, calling on government to shelve the increase.
While the NLC described the proposed increase in tariff as insensitive and callous, TUC said it is the height of insensitivity to the suffering of the masses of the country.
On their part, CSOs asked government to immediately shelve the proposed tariff hike, describing it as unfair and unjustifiable.
It will be recalled that in announcing the tariff increase, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, had said the current Service Based Tariff, SBT, was benchmarked on an exchange rate of N441/$ and inflation of 16.97 per cent.
It argued that since the value of the naira to the dollar now hovers above N700 and current rate of inflation at 22.45 per cent, it wis necessary to increase tariff to mitigate operators’ cost of operations.
Taking the lead in opposition to the planned tariff hike, NLC said with with contemplation of increase in school fees in tertiary institutions and already high fees in privately-owned ones, in addition to other costs/tariffs on the way, life in Nigeria could truly be Hobbesian.
The union in a statement by the President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, advised government to shelve the proposed tariff hike in the collective safety of the masses.
The statement read: “The plan to increase electricity tariff by 40% by July 1 is both insensitive and callous and reflects an organised indifference to the well-being of consumers, especially, the poor masses.
“The massive increase is explained away as a response to the over 100 per cent increase in the pump price of premium motor spirit, otherwise known as petrol.
“Details reveal a movement in inflation from 16.9% to 22.41 (threatening to needle 30), and a shift in exchange rate from N441 to N750.
“We believe not even these figures are a justification for this reckless proposed tariff increase.
The issue of capacity to pay and quality of service delivery are not only germane but superior to any rationalisation by market logic.”
The NLC contended that there had been increases without notice in violation of statutes, saying “the service providers, in spite of sundry support, have not been able to meet the threshold of 5,000 megawatts.
“Coupled with this, there have been surreptitious increases without notice in violation of the statutes.
“The inherent risk in the new regime of tariff is that there is no control, implying that by August, consumers will pay new rates.
“The other risk is that by the time other product or service-rendering entities come up with their new prices or rates, the ordinary person would have been compacted into dust.
“We would want to advise apostles of market who have called NLC all sorts of names to check their conscience.
“The rate at which they are going is highly combative and combustible. With contemplation of payment of increased school fees in tertiary institutions and increases in privately-owned ones, in addition to other costs/tariffs on the way, life in Nigeria could truly be Hobbesian.
“The market economies, which the market fundamentalists seek to emulate, have in place socio-economic safeguards which we do not have.
“In light of this, our advice is that this proposed tariff hike should be shelved for our collective safety.”
Reacting in a similar manner, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, described the planned hike as the height of insensitivity to the suffering of masses already finding it extremely difficult to cope with the removal of subsidy on petrol.
First Deputy President of the union, Dr Tommy Okon, urged the government to jettison the planned increase because it would compound the socio-economic woes of most Nigerians already over burdened with high inflation and general high cost of living.
He said “This new government should consider the plight of the suffering masses who are already over-burdened with high inflation and general unbearable high cost of living and other socio-economic realities.
“The government just removed subsidy on petrol which has negatively affected the cost of living and worsened the poverty level across the country.
‘’The government should not be seen to be insensitive to the plight of the citizens and socio-economic realities in the country.
“Agreed that the government inherited a bad economy, but policies are not made to worsen the plight of the masses, but to improve the living conditions of the citizens, especially the poor.
“The planned 40 per cent hike in electricity tariff is the height of insensitivity. The government has set up a committee with organized labour to work out modalities and ways of cushioning the negative effects of the subsidy removal.
‘’But now, the government is already making the expected outcome of the committee useless by the planned hike. The government should jettison the planned hike.