By Victor Ahiuma-Young
LAGOS—Organised labour weekend blasted the Federal Government over plan to further increase electricity tariff, asking the government to tell the world whose interest it had been representing since the privatisation of the power sector.
Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo, while speaking at the Sixth Presidential Business Forum held in Abuja last week, had said higher tariffs for Nigerians were “inevitable.”
But reacting, General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, Joe Ajaero, said Nigerians deserve to know whether the Federal Government now speak for private sector or Nigerians.
Ajaero, who spoke during the National Executive Council, NEC, meeting of NUEE, in Lagos, lamented that since privatisation of the power sector four years ago, the government had supported the private investors in the sector with over one trillion Naira of tax payers’ money.
According to Ajaero, the plan to further increase electricity tariff was obvious attempt by Federal Government to align with the private operators in the power sector to inflict more pains on Nigerians.
He contended that it was only in Nigeria that consumers of electricity would be told to pay higher tariffs even when power was not being supplied to homes, offices and factories.
NUEE General Secretary noted that going by the abysmal performance of the Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, and other operators since the privatisation in 2013, there was no justification for a further tariff hike, and wondered whether the Vice President was seeking to make more money for himself and investors.
He said: “Vice President Osinbajo should apologise to Nigerians for seeking to punish them with higher tariff. Nigerians should ask Osinbajo whether he is the spokesperson of the investors in the power sector. Is he an investor himself? I think that it is now becoming clear that some people in government have their hands in DISCOs. For how long will Nigerians continue to suffer in the name of privatization? Nigerians are suffering and the power situation is not getting better. I’m surprised that this is not the policy of the APC, yet they are following it up 100 per cent. This shows you that there is something fishy.
“This is not the first time one of these companies is declaring force majeure, contrary to the known agreement. Yola Electricity Distribution Company, YEDC, was sold along with Ibadan Electricity, because Yola is not very attractive to investors. So they bundled them together and put them for sale. Half way, Yola declared force majeure and the government allowed them. Since then, Yola that was not doing well is still there under government control and the power situation is better. For the past two years, the service there has been better.
“I challenge the investors to say that they are no more interested, I am telling you that we will appoint people from NUEE who will run it effectively and efficiently. Government should not listen to that level of ‘shakara.’
”They are making money and don’t want to declare profit to government. For four years, these private companies have not paid any dividend to the government, yet the government has paid them one trillion naira – what kind of business is that? So I think there is need for public hearing for Nigerians to come and speak on what is happening in the power sector.”