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Nigerian Labour Unions To Picket Power Regulator, Distribution Company Offices On Monday In Response To Recent Tariff Increase

Nigeria’s labour unions are standing firm on their demands for affordable electricity, calling for protests at NERC, DisCos’ offices nationwide.

The organised labour, last night, sent reminder notices to all its branches, offices and affiliates in respect of a proposed nationwide protest to commence on Monday over the electricity tariff hike and removal of subsidy from the power sector by the federal government.

The picketing of all the offices of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) by the labour is expected to lead to the shutdown of the Abuja headquarters of the agency, the Ministry of Power and state offices of power distribution companies.

NERC had announced a hike in the electricity tariff for Band A customers at a press briefing in Abuja on April 3, revealing that those affected would pay N225 per kilowatt-hour, up from the previous rate of N68/kWh.

The hike represented a 240 percent increase.

The development marked the removal of subsidy from the tariff of customers in the Band A category, who constituted about 15 percent of the total 12.82 million power consumers across the country.

Based on the tariff hike, the federal government said it would save N1.5tn.

The government stated that the decision took effect on April 3, 2024, adding that Band A customers would enjoy up to 20 hours of power supply daily.

But the House of Representatives, organised labour, the Nigerian Bar Association, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, electricity consumers and civil society organisations, had demanded a reversal of the hike to the subsidy era tariff.

The House called on the NERC to suspend forthwith the implementation of the new electricity tariff nationwide.

However, justifying the increase during an investigative hearing held by the Senate Committee on Power, Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, argued that there would be a nationwide blackout in the next three months if the increase in electricity tariff was not implemented.

He said this after the Senate Committee, chaired by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, rejected the new tariff regime.

“The entire sector will be grounded if we don’t increase the tariff. With what we have now in the next three months, the entire country will be in darkness if we don’t increase tariffs. The increment will catapult us to the next level. We are also Nigerians.  We are also feeling the impact,” Adelabu declared.

But the NLC and the TUC insisted on the reversal of the tariff hike and expressed dissatisfaction with the epileptic power situation in the country, which they said was affecting economic growth.

The unions had, last week, handed down a week ultimatum and threatened to picket NERC offices should a total reversal of the tariff to the subsidy era was not done. The ultimatum expired on Sunday.

Curiously, in a move to appease the unions, the NERC had last Monday ordered a downward review of the tariff from 225/kWh to 206.8/kWh, representing approximately an 8.1 percent reduction.

The commission attributed the cut to the relative appreciation of the naira in the official foreign exchange window.

NERC also said the revision of the 2024 Multi-Year Tariff Order for Band A customers led to a reduction in tariffs for all discos.

In a statement announcing the cut, the commission said, “Under the tariff methodology adopted by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, a revised tariff order covering the month of May 2024 had been issued by the commission to the 11 electricity distribution companies.

“The commission has considered changes in the macroeconomic parameters over the preceding month of April 2024 and especially the appreciation of exchange rates – consequently the commission has approved a downward review of end-user tariffs for Band ‘A’ customers from NGN225/kWh to NGN206.8/kWh.

“The commission reaffirms its commitment to providing a balanced and effective regulatory regime serving the needs of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry.”

The TUC, in a statement issued to all its council chairmen and secretaries by the Secretary of the Trade Union Congress, Lagos State Council,  Aladetan Abiodun, called on all units and members in Nigeria to picket all offices of NERC and Discos nationwide on Monday over the recent hike in electricity tariff.

Titled: “Picketing Action against NERC and Discos”, TUC said: “We write to inform you of a picketing action scheduled to take place on May 13, 2024, against the Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos).

“This action is in response to the recently announced hike in electricity tariff, which has brought untold hardship to Nigerians.

“We demand an immediate reversal of the tariff hike and a commitment to providing affordable and reliable electricity to Nigerians.”

It added in the statement that the picketing action would take place on Monday by 6 a.m. at the following offices: EKO Electricity Distribution Plc 24/25 Marina, Lagos; NERC Ikeja Forum Office Block J. Plot 3 Otunba Jobi Fele Way, Agindigbi, Ikeja, and Ikeja Electric Plc 178 Obafemi Awolowo Way Alausa Ikeja, all in Lagos State, as well as all NERC and Discos offices nationwide.

“We urge all chairmen and secretaries to mobilise their members to participate in this action. Let us stand together to fight for the rights of Nigerian workers and citizens. Solidarity forever!”

The NLC, in a joint letter with similar tone, signed by Chris Uyot and Anka Hassan, acting general secretary and secretary general of NLC and TUC, the organised labour confirmed Monday’s protests at designated centres.

Onyebuchi Ezigbo

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