Nationwide Strike Averted As FG Suspends Electricity Tariff Hike

Moses Ofodeme

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, in the early hours of Monday, September 28, said it is keeping its scheduled strike for today (Monday), in abeyance.

Labour position follows an agreement reached with the Federal Government at a meeting which started at 8.30pm on Sunday and ended at 2:50am on Monday.

After a prolonged back-and-forth amongst the stakeholders regarding issues raised by the organised labour; the meeting agreed to suspend the application of the cost-reflective electricity tariff adjustments for two weeks.

Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, read the five-page communique signed by the representatives of the government and labour.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba and his Trade Union Congress counterpart, Quadri Olaleye, amongst others; signed on behalf of Organised Labour while the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige; Minister of State Petroleum, Timipre Silva; Minister of State Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN); Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed; and the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and others, signed on behalf of the government.

Speaking with the media after the meeting; Olaleye revealed the signing of “a document to suspend the action for two weeks for the government to implement those things that we agreed in the agreement. So, we are suspending for two weeks.

“We don’t need a notice again to re-convene if there is a need to do that.”

Also, the parties agreed to set up a technical committee comprising Ministries, Departments, Agencies, NLC and TUC.

This would be effective for a duration of two weeks effective September 28; to examine the justifications for the new policy “in view of the need for the validation of the basis for the new cost-reflective tariff as a result of the conflicting information from the fields which appeared different from the data presented to justify the new policy by NERC; metering deployment, challenges, timeline for massive rollout.”

The members of the committee include the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, as Chairman; Minister of State Power, Godwin Jedy-Agba; Chairman, National Electricity Regulatory Commission, James Momoh; Special Assistant to the President on Infrastructure, Ahmad Zakari as the Secretary.

Other members are Onoho’Omhen Ebhohimhen, Joe Ajaero (NLC), Chris Okonkwo (TUC) and a representative of electricity distribution companies.

The committee’s terms of reference includes, the justification for the new policy on cost-reflective electricity tariff adjustments; to look at the different DISCOs and their different electricity tariff vis-à-vis NERC order and mandate. Also, to examine and advise government on issues that have hindered the deployment of the 6 million meters, among others.

“During the two weeks, the DISCOs shall suspend the application of the cost-reflective electricity tariff adjustments,” the communique noted.

Also, Labour and the FG agreed that provision for palliatives would be made for Nigerians. This is in order to mitigate the sufferings that Nigerian workers may experience; as a result of the hike in cost electricity tariffs and the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.

The palliatives will be in the areas of transport, power, housing, agriculture and humanitarian support.

The meeting resolved that the 40 per cent stake of government in the DisCo; as well as the stake of workers should be reflected in the composition of the DisCos boards.

It agreed that “an all-inclusive and independent review of the power sector operations as provided in the privatization MoU; be undertaken before the end of the year 2020, with labour represented.

“All parties agreed on the urgency for increasing the local refining capacity of the nation to reduce the over-dependency on importation of petroleum products to ensure energy security, reduce cost of finished products, increase employment and business opportunities for Nigerians.”

Also, the  communique revealed that the rehabilitation of the nation’s four refineries; located in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna must be completed by December 2021.

“To ensure commitment and transparency to the processes and timelines of the rehabilitation exercise; the management of NNPC has offered to integrate the national leadership of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association into the steering committee already established by the corporation,” the communique stated.

A governance structure that will include representatives of organized labour shall be established for timely delivery.

To cushion the impacts of the downstream sector deregulation and tariffs adjustment in the power sector; the FG agreed to announce in two weeks a specific amount to be accessed by workers; with subsequent provision for 240,000 under the auspices of NLC and TUC for participation in agricultural ventures.

This will be processed through the Central Bank and the Ministry of Agriculture.

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