The organised labour on Monday paralysed business activities of the electricity distribution firms as it led a nationwide protest against the over 45 per cent increase in electricity tariffs, demanding an immediate reversal of the hike.
Leaders and members of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress were joined in the simultaneous demonstrations in different parts of the country by those in the civil societies and students of tertiary institutions.
According to Punch, the protesters stormed the various offices of the power firms nationwide as early as 8am, chasing out some officials of the companies who had resumed for work.
Armed with placards that bore various inscriptions such as ‘No to increase in electricity tariff’ and ‘No meter, no payment’, the protesters said there was no justification for the hike, with the organised labour warning that if the decision was not rescinded, it could be forced to order an indefinite strike.
In Abuja, the NLC and the TUC led the protesters to the offices of the Abuja Electricity Development Company, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission and the National Assembly.
The President, TUC, Mr. Bala Kaigama, said the labour movement would continue with the protest against the tariff hike until its reversal.
Similarly, the President of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, accused the Minister of Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, of conniving with the electricity firms to fleece Nigerians.
The protesters insisted that policies of the government, which created room for Nigerians to be subjected to unjustified charges, would be resisted.
Wabba called on President Muhammadu Buhari to revisit the privation of the power sector as it was marred by corruption, lamenting that the current increase would make it the fifth time the tariffs would go up since the privatisation exercise was concluded.
Wabba, who said that the current tariff increase would not be accepted, added that it was the standard practice all over the world for people to only pay for what they consumed.
He said, “We will not allow a situation where a few will collaborate, including our Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatubde Fashola; we are really disappointed because he did not even respond to all the letters we wrote to him.
“This protest is to tell the Discos and Gencos that we will not allow a situation where they will continue to fleece Nigerians.”
Kaigama, who observed that NERC had been ineffective, called on the government to appoint a substantive board for the commission.
The representative of the civil societies, Mr. Jaiye Gasikya, said the observed deficiencies in the sector only showed that the investors were not ready to add any value to what they met on the ground.
He said that the power firms had refused repeated calls by the organised labour and civil societies to publish their financial statements.
In Lagos, the protesters occupied the head office of the Ikeja Electric in Alausa.
Amidst shouts of ole, ole (meaning thief), they demanded the immediate reversal of the new tariffs, which took effect on February 1. They also asked that prepaid meters should be made available to every consumer free of charge before any tariff hike could be implemented.
The Vice President, NLC, Mr. Amechi Asugwuni, argued that there was no consultation with the consumers before announcing the new tariffs.
“This is unacceptable because it did not take into consideration the welfare of Nigerians,” he said.
In Akure, Ondo State, some protesters marched to the office of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company where they chased out its workers and shut the premises before moving to the Airways and Leo areas of the state capital.
The Chairman of the NLC in the state, Mrs. Bosede Daramola, said there had been no significant improvement in the service delivery by the BEDC and that most consumers were not metered in line with the signed Memorandum of Understanding of November 1, 2013, which stipulated that within 18 months, all consumers must be metered.
A member of the Civil Liberty Organisation and Director of Research, Planning and Statistics, Christian Association of Nigeria, Nelson Fadoju, expressed displeasure at the rise in tariffs, which he said came when the times were already hard for the citizens of the country.
In Osogbo, Osun State, the protesting workers invaded the office of the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company in the city and locked up officials of the company from around 9am until around noon.
In Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the NLC and TUC members, who picketed the head office of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution on Moscow Road, decried what they called arbitrary increase in electricity tariffs.
The state TUC Chairman, Mr. Chika Onuegbu, said the people would not sit and watch the government inflict pains on them through the increase in electricity tariffs.
He lamented that the Federal Government failed to save when the price of crude oil was above $140 per barrel and wondered why the masses should be forced to pay for their inaction.
Also, the state Chairman of the NLC, Beatrice Itubo, described the picketing of the PHED head office as a warning to the electricity distribution company.
Reacting, the Corporate Communication Manager, PHED, Mr. Jonah Iboma, said the power sector had been neglected over the past 50 years, expressing the need for more investment in the sector.
He stated that contrary to the claim that the recent increase in electricity tariffs was up to 45 per cent, the hike was between 12 per cent and 21 per cent.
Members of the labour groups in Ekiti State also shut the office of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company in Ado-Ekiti.
The workers were led by the state Chairman of the TUC, Odunayo Adesoye, and his counterpart in the NLC, Ade Adesanmi.
They rebuffed entreaties by men and officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps not to enter the building.
Other groups that joined in the protest included the Non-Academic Staff Union of the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti; Ekiti State Public Service Joint Negotiating Council, the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools and the Nigerian Civil Service Union.
In Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, the unions said there was no need to increase the tariffs since the state government had been subsidising the cost of electricity consumed by the people.
In Ogun State, the protest was staged by members of the NLC in conjunction with the civil society groups, including the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights and the Electricity Consumers’ Forum in Abeokuta, Sango-Ota and Sagamu.
But NERC urged the labour unions to exercise restraint in the protest against the hike in electricty tariffs.
It said in a statement by its Head of Public Affairs Department, Dr. Usman Arabi, that the existing electricity tariff order was carried out after a wide consultation with different shades of opinion, and in strict compliance with extant rules and judicial pronouncements.
It stated that the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005 empowers any party aggrieved or dissatisfied by the decision of the commission to appeal to it within 60 days from the date of the decision, adding that it was still open to further consultation.
Fashola also described the electricity tariff increase as “a painful pill” and appealed to consumers to “swallow” it.
He, however, said the new tariffs were cheaper than using diesel or petrol-fired generators or inverters.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, assured the leadership of the organised labour that the National Assembly would act to ensure that the electricity tariff hike was resolved in the interest of the people.
He stated this while addressing a rally jointly organised by the labour unions and electricity consumers at the National Assembly.
Saraki said, “Even before now, we have observed that this issue of tariff increase and some of the policies were not palatable. We have summoned NERC even before now. We are with you, we will stand with you and ensure that no policy will in any way exist that is not palatable to the Nigerian people.
NAFDAC Grants Conditional Emergency Use Authorisation For Jansen COVID-19 Vaccine
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, on Tuesday granted conditional Emergency Use Authorisation for Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to prevent COVID-19 in Nigerians above 18 years of age.
In a press statement made available to the media, the Director-General of the Agency, Prof Christianah Mojisola Adeyeye said after a thorough evaluation, the NAFDAC Vaccine Committee concluded that the data on the vaccine were robust and met criteria for efficacy, safety and quality.
”The data also show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks thereby supporting the manufacturer’s recommended use. Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine is the third vaccine recommended in Nigeria for preventing COVID-19.”
On vaccine efficacy, Adeyeye noted that the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a single dose and results from a clinical trial involving people in the United States, South Africa and Latin American countries found that Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine was effective at preventing COVID-19 in people from 18 years of age.
She added: ”The Phase III clinical trial involved over 44,000 people. Half received a single dose of the vaccine and half were given a placebo (a dummy injection). People did not know if they had been given Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine or placebo.
”The trial found a 67 percent reduction in the number of symptomatic COVID-19 cases after two weeks in people who received Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine”.
On side effects, she said the most commonly reported side effects with the vaccine were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of these side effects were mild to moderate in severity and lasted 1-2 days.
Speaking on vaccine safety, she said in line with the NAFDAC’s Pharmacovigilance and safety monitoring plan for COVID-19 vaccines, Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine would be closely monitored and subject to several activities that apply specifically to COVID-19 vaccines.
”Manufacturers are required to provide monthly safety reports in addition to the regular updates generated by NAFDAC activities. Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine works by preparing the body to defend itself against COVID-19.”
She further explained that unopened vaccine vials can be stored and/or transported frozen at -25°C to – 15°C for up to 24 months and three months when stored at 2 to 8°C.
She also stated that the Ministry of Health and National Primary Health Care Development Agency will announce when the vaccine becomes available for use in Nigeria.
NLC Alleged That El-Rufai Reverted Minimum Wage to N18,000
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday alleged that the Kaduna State government plans to infiltrate its protest with thugs.
It said it was misled in praising the Nasir El-Rufai administration for being the first to pay the new N30,000 minimum wage.
NLC, in a statement by its Kaduna State Council Chairman, Ayuba Suleiman, said the state had since reverted to the old wage of N18, 000 for council workers. It said 20,000 civil servants have been receiving half salary of less than N18, 000.
The workers union said the state owed its members several allowances. It condemned threats to arrest NLC President Ayuba Wabba.
“We are calling the attention of the general public to the planned mobilisation of thugs by the state government to discredit our peaceful protest. We urge the people of Kaduna State to be vigilant and stand against this plan.
“We implore the general public to remain calm and peaceful throughout the five-day warning strike.
“We are assuring the Kaduna State workers and the general public of our commitment to maintaining peaceful strike action in their interest,” Suleiman said.
FACAN Seeks Partnership With Lagos on Ranching
The Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN) is seeking partnership with the Lagos State government on the operation of ranches as part of a road map with investment plans that seek to improve animal productivity and production, as well as increase the value addition of key livestock value chains.
Its President, Dr Victor Iyama told the media that the association is examining various aspects of agricultural development such as investment, demand, consumption, gender and social inclusion and is ready to partner with Lagos in driving out livestock-sector investment interventions, to help the state meet its targets by improving productivity and total production in the key livestock value chains of sheep and cow
According to him, the absence of a roadmap to develop the livestock sector had hindered the successful implementation of previous investment plans for the sector.
He said the creation of the master plan would guide livestock-sector investment interventions in improving feed and water resources, health services, industry and factory and promote private sector investment and business environment.
Urging the Lagos government to pursue the establishment of ranches for hire, Iyama reiterated that investors were convinced the efforts would foster public-private partnerships for livestock development.
According to him, private operators will be ready to rent ranches for meat cattle, indicating that the state remains one of the safest places for increasing industries for meat production and milk processing.
Recently, the Lagos State Butchers Association has requested the provision of about 50 hectares of land from the Lagos State Government for ranching and rearing herds of cattle in the state.
Meantime, the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Absiola Olusanya, said well over 1.8 million herds of cattle and over 1.4 million herds of sheep and goats, were being consumed in Lagos yearly.
Olusanya called on the private sector to partner with it to establish feedlots in the state for cattle rearing and fattening in furtherance of its reforms and sanitization of the red meat value chain, stressing that partnership becomes necessary as it would ensure better production and supply of cattle for consumption in the state.
According to her, the feedlots when operational would help revive and resuscitate cows that might have travelled from far cities such as Sokoto, Jalingo, Bauchi and Jigawa among others where they may have come to Lagos before slaughtering them.
Olusanya added that the feedlot system would also help in fattening the cows before taking them to the slaughter slabs which would improve the quality of beef as well as help butchers and meat sellers to make more profit. “We have been having discussions around the transformation agenda centred on abattoirs, transportation and markets but there is a revised plan to have a more holistic approach to the red meat value chain.
“We are not just focusing on abattoirs alone which are a processing angle, we are starting right from the animal identification and traceability systems, meaning right from the source or point of origination of the cattle.
“That is why we want to establish feedlots in the state so that we can have cattle fattening centres. Having feedlot centres means that the cattle can rest, they can be fattening.”
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