By Victor Ahiuma-Young
When the Federal Government on the eve of the New Year, told Nigerians that January 2021, would be tough, those outside the corridors of power never imagined that the government was going to bring out its fangs and unleash its venom on the citizens in the form of electricity tariff hike when the consequences of the September 2020 hike are yet to settle.
While some Nigerians were not surprised as reality checks in the last few years have confirmed that the government has penchant for inflicting pains and suffering on Nigerians, others were shocked that the government could in the wake of the sufferings and untold hardships arising from economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic, prices of essential services such as electricity could be increased.
Among the individuals and groups that this latest increase in tariff seem to have hit below the belt is Organised Labour, and its leaders are not pretending about it.
Speaking through the President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, Labour in a statement titled “Nigerians Have Bled Enough. Reverse the Increase in Electricity Tariff Immediately”, gave insight into why the new tariff must be rejected by Nigerians.
According to the statement, “While Nigerians were trying to embrace the warmth of the New Year, the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, in its ‘wisdom’ decided to slam the country with the cold hug of yet another astronomical increase in electricity tariff. This increase would be the umpteenth time in a space of less than one year.
“The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, vehemently condemns this attempt to start Year 2021 for Nigerians on the grinding stone.
“It is even colder that this tariff increase was announced without recourse to the negotiation process that the government and Organized Labour in Nigeria signed up to about three months ago.
“The representatives of Organized Labour in the committees set up during negotiation with government to engage on issues in our electricity and petroleum sectors heard of this insensitive hike from the media like other Nigerians.
“This is indeed a stellar performance in negotiation in bad faith by the Federal Government. This is completely unacceptable to the working people of Nigeria.
“It is very awful and indeed cruel for government to introduce yet another killer electricity tariff amidst the soaring inflation and poverty rates in the country.
“This hike also comes in the face of the renewed onslaught of COVID-19 where workers and citizens expend their meagre resources on healthcare both for preventive and therapeutic response to the renewed COVID-19 challenge.
“We really fear for the impact of this new increase on manufacturing in Nigeria. Certainly, the producers of “Made-in- Nigeria” goods and services will find it greatly difficult to cope with this new tariff.
“Before now, many manufacturing concerns and Small to Medium Enterprises were already reeling in great strain as a result of the negative growth occasioned by the first wave of the COVID pandemic in 2020.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that this tariff hike would sound the death knell for many manufacturing outfits in Nigeria as many of them would resort to either mass lay- off of workers and or direct importation of finished goods.
“We are bothered by the double speak in the NERC communique announcing this hike in tariff. In one breath, NERC denied any new increase in tariff. In another breath, it announced that electricity tariff would be adjusted from N2 per kilowatt/hour to N4 per kilowatt/hour – a 100% tariff increase.
“The statement in quick reversals also lumped consumers in Band D and E under the new tariff. This volte face is contrary to our agreement with the government which excluded Band D and E from further increases in electricity tariff.
“This clearly paints a picture of the deliberate mission by the government to hoodwink and take Nigerians for a ride.
“Overall, this increase in electricity tariff apart from negating the agreement we reached with the government in September 2020 will further imperil our local economy, lead to the loss of millions of jobs by Nigerian workers and trigger wider social discomfitures.
“In light of the heightened burden that this hike in electricity tariff imposes on Nigerian workers and people, we urge the Federal Government to quickly withdraw this uncanny New Year Gift or face an unprecedented industrial resistance by Nigerian workers. Nigerians have bled enough already. We will bleed no more.”