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COVID-19: CSOs demand reversal of electricity tariff hike

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Urge Nigerians to rise against move

COVID-19: CSOs demand reversal of electricity tariff hike

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

Barely 48 hours to July, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Monday, demanded a reversal of electricity tariff hike, amid the coronavirus pandemic, in the country.

CSOs including Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP; ActionAid Nigeria, AAN; Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ; YIAGA AFRICA; Health for Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF; and Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC opined on the tariff hike.

Making their views known to Vanguard on the proposed electricity tariff hike, they pointed out that there is no basis for electricity tariff hike following poor services, lack of electricity infrastructure across the country, Nigerians paying for blackouts, buying and installing cables, electricity poles and transformers over the tears, 21 years of sinking billions of Naira into power sector by government, and despite all these the electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOS, including the government have failed to provide effective service delivery to Nigerians, hence there is no justification for the hell-bent tariff hike in July.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Pandemic: CSOs to FG, no to electricity tariff hike in July

It will be recalled that the Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, made it known that the new increment on electricity tariff will take off in July, while at the ‘Investigative Public Hearing on Power Sector Recovery Plan and the Impact on COVID-19 Pandemic’ before the Senate Committee on Power.

The Executive Director, SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said, “Until Nigerians start seeing electricity directly and repeatedly there is no basis to say there will be an increment in the tariff of electricity, to be talking about an increase of electricity tariff without Nigerians properly served electricity and will not be in the interest of the Nigerian people.

“What they are doing now is putting the cart before the horse because services have to come and they are stable before you can be talking about the increase in charges and not poor service.

“Nigerians should demand improved services and not accept tariff hike with poor services.

“There should be a forensic investigation of all that has happened in terms of provision of electricity for Nigerians so that those who have culpability should be brought to justice. Let the investigation start in 1999.

“If we take it from this recent democracy we have spent 20 years on, remember, Obasanjo spent so much on electricity that we cannot see electricity, so various governments have spent so much money.

“A thorough investigation of all that happened must be done so that whoever is found culpable would be brought to justice.

“On carrying out a forensic audit it should be in line with Buhari’s duty to do it because he is the one that said he is interested in fighting corruption since he said he has integrity and what he has we ask him to supply to Nigerians.

“I think Nigerians should find a way of taking steps to oppose this proposed increment because it doesn’t make any sense at all and absolutely.

“When services are okay Nigerians are ready to pay for lovely services and that I am sure that Nigerians are capable of doing, but without improved services to me is dangerous.”

The Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, in her reaction said, “At a point when even the Federal Government lowered the pump price of fuel because of what is going on in the market, why would the Electricity Companies want Nigerians to pay more?

“I call on the Electricity Regulatory Commission to quickly call them to order. What reasons are they given to ask Nigerians to pay more? With metered points, Nigerians are happy to pay for services rendered. Electricity is a life wire of industrialisation, we are not happy that the Federal Government privatized it, if they are not satisfied, the government should take back the system and re-energize it to create employment and expand the process.

“Very unique is the introduction of solar power, this will shock power companies when Nigerians really know how to use them because we have sunlight all year round.

“COVID-19 is enough struggles that people are trying to find their feet. Citizens have enough burdens right now.

“I call on Nigerians to reject any increase and demand for efficiency in the power supply. We must remain united against further exploitation by the system.”

The Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, on his part, said, “It is inappropriate for the Federal Government to nurse the idea of increasing the electricity tariff at this point in time when COVID-19 pandemic has increased the poverty across the Country.

Millions of Nigerians are going through difficult times and it will be insensitive for any Government to ignore the plight of the people and beginning to consider increasing a service that is not even available.

“Around the world government is implementing palliative to address the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and Nigeria should not be an exception.  Access to electricity will help the poor to reduce the Covid-19 challenge and also aid the economy.

“The Federal Government should look for creative ways to stimulate the economy rather than following the old International Monetary Fund, IMF, a prescription that will increase economic hardship.  The neoliberal framework will not solve the Nigeria economy problem.  We need to be pragmatic and look inward to address the Post-COVID-19 agenda.

“The federal and state governments should explore the options of reducing the cost of governance. The savings from such actions will be used to invest in strengthening the economy and jobs will be available for the people. When the economy functions very well people will be able to pay their bills.

“My humble advice to the President is that he should not allow the IMF Policy guide the way out of the present crisis and we should look for innovative solutions using recovered ‘Stolen assets to Finance Social Investment Programme’ that will benefit the poor.

In another reaction, Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA, Samson Itodo, said, “It’s not the right time to implement this new tariff given the present circumstances. It will subject Nigerians to the worst suffering. The implementation should be delayed until we are out of woods. The government should consider this a palliative.”

Director, Health for Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Rev Nnimmo Bassey, said, “Nigerians are ready to pay for electricity. Yes. But when it comes to paying for the darkness it is a big No! The notion that Nigerians should be paying more for the power they don’t enjoy is very provocative.

“In a situation where most citizens are complaining of poor service delivery and are angry at being made to pay wild estimated bills, this move cannot be justified.

“If the idea is for revenue generation there are a few basic things government can do. Ensure that power distributors provide consumers with prepaid meters. Partner with renewable energy companies and agencies in making distributed supply available.

“Encourage and invest in community-controlled low canon and non-polluting power supply systems. Convert the gas that is being flared in the oil fields into electricity in the short term and shift rapidly to renewable modes.

“Nigerians are weighed down by costs that ought not to be their lot. With the loss of income and health threats due to ongoing lockdown, Nigerians should tell the government that this is the worst time to place another burden on them. And they should say so loudly.”

READ ALSO: CSO calls for withdrawal of bills threatening citizens’ rights to digital freedom, expression

The Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said, “Let me reemphasize this, the concern and position of the common man and most Nigerians are that any future plan to implement the new price regime must be put on hold and suspended for the rest of 2020.

“COVID-19 lockdowns have eroded the purchasing capacity of Nigerians and it is going to get worse with the post-COVID-19 economic downturns, which have been projected as likely leading to recession.

“It will take a great deal of time for Nigerians to regain and recover what has been lost and what would still be lost to this pandemic. Paying more for electricity amounts to gross insensitivity and it is akin to chastising the people with scorpions after coronavirus has chastised them with whips.

“At this juncture, the priority of the government must focus on how to rescue the people and heal them from economic injuries and not add to their burdens.

“In the alternative, the government should consider a downward reviewing of electricity tariff to help the people, and I also support the position of the National Assembly that an upward review is injurious, insensitive and unacceptable to the common man, at a trying time like this.”

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