Electricity tariff hike: Labour grounds Discos, NERC nationwide

• Demands complete reversal of power sector privatization, rejects band classification

Members of the organized labour, civil society organizations and concerned Nigerians, yesterday, grounded operations of the Electricity Distribution Company (DISCOs) and the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) nationwide.

The picketing was a response to NERC’s approval for electricity distribution companies (DisCos) to increase tariff from N65/kWh to N225/kWh for all Band A customers.

The protesters, who picketed the headquarters of NERC in Abuja and across the country, as well as the various DISCOs demanded a reversal of the tariff hike, complete reversal of power sector privatisation, and recovery of all public electricity assets sold.

In Abuja, the protesters led by Presidents of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) , Festus Osifo, gathered at the NERC’s premises as early as 8am and prevented workers from accessing their offices. They chanted solidarity songs and carried placards with messages such as #WeAreNotAGeneratorRepublic, #EnoughOfTheExcusesGiveUsLight, and #LetThePoorBreatheGiveUsAffordableAndConstantPower.

Addressing newsmen, Ajaero said the privatization of the power sector was a colossal failure.

The organized labour demanded a complete reversal of the power sector privatization and the recovery of all public electricity assets sold cheaply to largely inexperienced, technically deficient, and financially challenged private investors.

Ajaero also called on the government to respect the September 2021 agreement with labour, which reinforced the 2023 agreement that the government must halt further increase in the tariff of public utilities until certain conditions were met.

He said these include the review of the privatisation exercise, de-dollarisation of gas supply to electricity generation, and the distribution of pre-paid meters to all electricity consumers in Nigeria, among others.

The NLC president also noted that before the increase in electricity tariff, NERC should have called for a stakeholders’ meeting for proper consultation.

Chairman of NERC, Mr. Sanusi Garba, commended labour for its peaceful demonstration in respect of issues affecting the power sector.

He assured that the commission would reassess some of the demands presented by the organised labour.

He mentioned that the newly constructed Zungeru Power Plant is operational, producing more than 600 megawatts of electricity. He further stated that the commission was actively focusing on increasing solar power generation to facilitate a reduction in tariffs in the near future.

“We have taken note of all you have said, particularly about the affordability of tariffs. We have listened to you and the concerns of Nigerians.

“We also noted clearly what Ajaero said about energy sources, and I would like to say that the new Zungeru Power Plant is already online, generating over 600 megawatts. we are also working hard to ramp up solar generation in such a way that tariff will start to come down.”

Ajaero also made remarks about banks sitting on the boards of distribution companies.

“The NERC had earlier given deadlines to all banks to exit from the boards of distribution companies because we want proper investors on the boards of these companies. We have noted your concerns and we will go back to the drawing board.”

However, the protesters vehemently expressed their dissatisfaction, shouting that they were not in favour of “going back to the drawing board,” but instead demanded a complete reversal of the tariff increase. Their chants of “No, No, reverse the hike, we demand total reversal of electricity tariff hike,” echoed their strong stance on the issue.

According to the  National President of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) , Adeyeye Adebiyi issues ranging from non-payment of salaries and benefits to poor working conditions and victimization of union leaders have plagued the sector, leading to low morale and decreased productivity among workers.

The organised labour also went to the Ministry of Power and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

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