Yemisi Izuora/Ijeoma Agudosi
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has appealed for restraint as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) embarks on nationwide protest over the recent upward electricity review.
Fashola during the second monthly sectoral meeting in Lagos yesterday with power generation, distribution and transmission companies appealed for understanding saying that only cost reflective tariff can make the power sector to develop and attract investment.
He said that the purpose of the meeting was to provide avenue for company’s executives in the power sector to discuss and address power challenges in the country.
Fashola said that the entire nation is waiting for effective service delivery in power sector, and that the idea behind the meeting is go round power installation to fashion a out ways to improve on service delivery.
According to him, People could be disappointed over an increase in electricity tariff, but it ought to have been increased long before the new administration came on board.
The new tariff in the long run would be better and cheaper in the next few years. It is painful to have witnessed increase at this time but it is better because this is the first major decision made by this administration to review the sector.
The minister said that a fresh agenda tailored toward improving power supply in the country involves continuous public engagement on tariff collection, debts, power generation, maintenance, ancillary services, dispatch orders and discipline.
He noted that to ensure effective monitoring and performance in the power sector, issues of gas requirement and constraints, transmission problems, imbalance (particularly the locations of excess), service quality, overload safety, franchising and other relevant matters must be continuously addressed to seek solutions that would be promptly affected.
He said, “Henceforth, monthly meetings involving GENCOs, DISCOS and all other stakeholders in the sector will be held where decisions made would be binding on all the stakeholders across the country.
It is expected that these companies each be represented by a management member given the authority to take decisions on behalf of their companies.
He however lauded Eko distribution company over its effort to sustain power supply within ikoyi, Alagbon, Parkview and some Victoria island and its environs in spite the collapsed of the 330/11 KVA injector substation at Alagbon.
Meanwhile, for several hours yesterday, operational activities and movement in and out of Ikeja Electric (Ikeja Disco) headquarters were disrupted by protesting public led by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
The protest was mobilised by the union bodies to challenge the upward review of electricity tariff by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
Stakeholders in the industry including the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) claims they obtained court injunction restraining the Distribution Companies (DisCos) from implementing the new tariff, but the 11 DisCos across the country on the 1st of February announced commencement of the reviewed tariff.
At about 10am yesterday, hundreds of protesters drawn from major labour bodies and Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s) marched through Obafemi Awolowo way Ikeja supported by mounted public address system and musical instruments on articulated vehicles, chanting labour songs.
The infuriated crowd which were denied access into the premises of the company formed human barricade around entry and exit gates, supported by their vehicles.
Leaders of each of the participating union made speeches insisting a reversal of the tariff.
They carried placards with different inscriptions some of which read, “Gen. Muhammadu Buhari remember your electoral promises, support textile revival, reopen closed factories” Provide electricity, develop our economy” “No to electricity tariff hike, No to Naira devaluation” among others.
The Unions that took part in the protest include, NLC, TUC, CLO, Textiles Union, Electricity Union, ASSBIFI and ASUU among others.
Sensing that the crowd were becoming agitated even with the presence of police and Civil Defense, the company’s management allowed leaders of the Unions into the compound.
Addressing them, Mr. Aigbe Olotu, Chief Finance Officer of the company pleaded that the managing director was among those meeting with power minister in Lagos, appealed for calm.
Olotu said he will deliver their message to the management after informing them that the company did not take any unilateral decision on the issue.
In his address, Amechi Asugwuni NLC vice president said they were demanding for the reversal of the tariff and warned that the labour would embark on a national strike if their demand is not met.
On their own, the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria demanded federal governments revisiting of the 2014 national conference and implement the holistic recommendations for the power sector instead of allowing the same unhelpful posting of high tariff by underperforming generating and distribution companies.