April 19, 2024

How Tinubu’s fuel energy policy is deepening poverty, by Adekunle Adekoya

How Tinubu’s fuel energy policy is deepening poverty, by Adekunle Adekoya

IT is no longer news that electricity tariff has been hiked, ostensibly for users in what many now know as Band A areas, though in reality the tariff was hiked across all bands. I can support this assertion with readings from the bill sent to me by Ikeja DISCO, or IKEDC. I live in a part of Lagos classified to be under Band E. That is Egan, Igando in the Ikotun-Igando LCDA area.  That is part of the larger old Alimosho Local Government.

In our area, we have remained on estimated billing to date; very few houses have pre-paid metres installed. We actually are not sure which band we are in, the bill sometimes read Band D or Band E. I will explain shortly. Prior to the tariff hike announcement, my bill for January 2024, sent by SMS, stated that the tariff is E-Non MD, with current charges of N1,679.15.

A few weeks later, another bill dropped by SMS as usual, indicating a tariff at D-Non MD, with current charges of N2,518.73. Similarly, the bill for December 2023 indicated tariff at E-Non MD, with current charges of N1,6798.15. You now see why we don’t know whether we’re in Band D or Band E? After the tariff was hiked came the bill for March 2024, and the tariff was indicated as D-Non MD, with current charges of  N8,462.92. That showed a four-fold increase in what had been current charges previously.

What this means is that people of that area, like other areas under-served with electricity, run their lives on generators most of the time.

Currently, we are supplied electricity for a few hours from 12.30 am till about 6.30am. As soon as the light comes on, people scamper from their beds to switch on water pump machines and fridges. It is also in the night that most people are able to iron their clothes and plug in phones to charge. My next door neighbour is a welder. My heart always goes out to this man as he plies his trade on generators from sunup till sundown.

Occasionally, perhaps when the cost of petrol for his generators is biting, he would resort to night duty to take advantage of our unique supply time. When he begins welding around 1am, the noise from his activities keeps me and other neighbours awake at a time we should be sleeping. Of course, this welder will have to mark up the cost of his services after adding the cost of petrol for his generators. His customers will have to pay more. It is a debilitating situation that we find ourselves.

The whizz-kids that segregated the electricity market into bands whereby some people get more electricity than others must have read George Orwell’s Animal Farm very well and applied the maxim of “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” to the marketing of electric power. But they lost sight of many things because they read Animal Farm literally. There are very few, if any, welder, carpenter, plumber or other artisans that live in the so-called Band A areas.

Most of these artisans can afford accommodation only in the Band D & E areas. That means people in the Band A areas that need the services of artisans will have to pay more, in terms of transportation and that same electricity whenever their services are needed. In Lagos, for instance, if a water pump in Ikeja GRA fails, the artisan that will repair it will probably be a resident of Isolo, Ikotun, Ejigbo, or Ipaja. Said artisan will charge transport fees in addition to cost of repairs. Not favourable to both. Same applies to Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and other towns and cities.

Now that electricity and fuel energy is becoming unaffordable, the state has to think of the millions of traders, mostly women, who sell soft drinks and pure water. These need to be cooled or chilled before buyers will buy. As a result, the prices of bottled water, satchet water, and carbonated soft drinks sold in moving traffic and in shops continue to rise. It is not in the interest of anybody — makers of the drinks or buyers. This is where I think the President and his economic team missed the issue. Oh, it’s nice to hear of appropriate pricing, cost-reflective tariff and other high-falutin jargon, but the issue is the effect that the outcomes of these policies are having on life and living. The ability of many Nigerian hands to make repeated journeys to their mouths at the required intervals is being severely curtailed.

In Nigeria and elsewhere, society has always been stratified, partcularly along the lines of income and earnings. If we are truly desirous of building an egalitarian society, market segregation evidenced in the bands in the electricity sector is an anomaly. Sentencing some people to just four or five hours of electricity daily because of where they can afford to live is man’s inhumanity to man. For government to endorse it implies institutionalisation of  inequality.

If we continue with this policy, we will never be able to lift our people out of poverty. Now we have telecommunications services in almost all nooks and crannies of the nation, and telecoms services are great enablers that make life a lot easier, in addition to having the ability to catalyse people out of the morass of poverty, hunger, and disease. But what happens when people can’t charge their devices? What happens when artisans acquire power tools but have no electricity to power them? In a tropical climate like ours, how do we live without cooling machines like fans and air-conditioners and fridges since fuel energy and electricity is becoming unaffordable? Government must have a rethink on this!