Some members of the National Assembly assure labour leaders that they are not in support of increase in electricity tariff
THE nationwide protest by organised labour and its civil society allies, on Monday, February 8, against the increase in electricity tariff, has the support of Bukola Saraki, Senate president and other members of the National Assembly.
Addressing the protesters who stormed the National Assembly building, Saraki appealed to the labour leaders to give the legislators time to intervene in the matter.
He said: “This place (National Assembly) belongs to you. We are only tenants here for four years. I want to assure you that the eighth National Assembly is for the people.
“Even before now, we too have observed that this issue of tariff and some of the policies are not palatable and we summoned the NERC leadership even before now for a review. We will stand with you and ensure that no policy that is not palatable to the masses and the people stands.”
In the same breath, Dino Melaye, chairman, Senate committee on Federal Capital Territory, promised that the Senate would protect the security and welfare of the people in accordance with law.
Melaye, who was with Saraki to receive the leaders of organised labour alongside Ali Ndume, Senate leader, assured the workers that the National Assembly would not allow the greedy few to hold the nation to ransom.
Earlier, Ayuba Wabba, president of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, described the increase in tariff as another form of corruption that should be fought by the present administration, noting that the most worrisome aspect of the development was that Nigerians were paying for darkness instead of light.
According to him, if there was improved power generation and distribution, Nigerians would be ready to pay for the service, but observed that apart from the epileptic power supply, Nigerians were being subjected to outrageous estimated billing system.
Wabba said: “For us at this very hard economic time, we think this increase is not only outrageous, the NERC has not been able to convince us that this increase is actually desirable because of the challenge in the economy.”
Bobboi Kaigama, president of the Trade Union Congress, TUC, said: “We are here to express our disdain, our displeasure, our bitterness to an organisation that says it is working for the good of this country only to wake up one day and said we have increased electricity tariff from N14 to about N26.
“We are happy when we had them in an engagement last night. They confessed that they never consulted us and we wonder whether they have consulted the leadership of the National Assembly before the tariff was increased.”
On his part, Dipo Fashina, chairman of the Labour and Civil Society Coalition, LASCO, said that what they were doing was to defend the interest of the workers and the oppressed people in Nigeria.
He said an attempt not to reverse the new regime would draw out workers and all people affected by the policy.
The anti-electricity tariff hike protests held in all 36 states of the federation on Monday, February 8, with protesters demanding for reversal and, in some states, locked out staff of DISCOS.
The protests came as Wabba, factional president of the NLC, issued a two-week ultimatum to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, to reverse the increase or its office would be taken over by organised labour.
Reacting, NERC justified the new tariff regime, claiming it made wide consultations before the increase.
— Feb 9, 2016 @ 14:45 GMT