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protesters said there was no justification for the hike, with the organised labour warning that if the decision was not rescinded, it could be forced to order an indefinite strike.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.
COVID-19: Indian Travellers Regains Entry Into Nigeria
The federal government of Nigeria on Monday said travellers from India will no longer be denied entry into Nigeria as the country has been removed from the list of flagged countries.
In May, in an effort to curb the spread of the global health pandemic, the federal government had banned travellers from Brazil, India and Turkey from visiting the country.
Speaking on Monday during the national briefing of the presidential steering committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), said the situation in the Asian county has improved.
“The Global cases recorded continues to decline to about 4m cases weekly, although it is less, compared to last year and the situation calls for caution because we are not out of the woods yet. Africa and Nigeria in particular, continue to record rising cases and lots of fatalities,” Mustapha said.
“This can really be curtailed and reduced minimally if we adhere strictly to the NPIs. I recognize the fact that people are fatigued and tired but let me encourage all Nigerians not to give up. We all need to come together to defeat this dreaded disease so we can return to our normal life.
“The most potent way of getting out of this situation is through vaccines, which science and research has presented to us. I call on every eligible person to come out and be vaccinated. There are various choices now. We have AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson and we expect Pfizer to be delivered very soon. There will be enough vaccines to go around soon. By the second quarter of 2022, we would have received about 52 million doses of the vaccines.
“To ease travels for fully vaccinated Nigerians, we are exploring the principles of reciprocity between Nigeria and other nations. For the time being, Nigerians are advised to always carry their vaccination card details or barcode on their electronic devices for easy access especially for those travelling outside the country.
“Compliance with protocols laid down for quarantine to ensure control remains a source of worry to the PSC. The need to review the protocol has become expedient to align with existing global protocols and realities. On this note, the PSC will adopt a sustainable model and policy that will be unveiled soon. To begin with, India has been removed from the list of flagged countries in view of improved situation in that country.”
“On this note, the PSC will adopt a sustainable model and policy that will be unveiled soon”, he said.
Osagie Ehanire, minister of health said evidence has so far shown that the Delta strain is already dominant in Nigeria.
He warned that though the third wave of the pandemic may appear to be leveling out because there have been no catastrophic increases in infections and fatalities, it is not wise to assume that the threat is gone, especially as cases are fluctuating and have to be identified by genomic sequencing.
The minister assured that even though there is a 25 percent shortfall in CICAX supply, Nigeria will not run low on vaccines.
Ehanire further noted that there were reports of new coronavirus mutations circulating in other countries, and assured that government will monitor with all tools available to respond appropriately.
Also speaking, Faisal Shuaib, executive director of, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency noted that vaccine cards were becoming a requirement across the country.
He, therefore, warned against any attempt to produce/procure and sell fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.
“Anyone who ventures into this would be apprehended and made to face the law. This is a criminal offense, in which both the buyer and seller would be prosecuted.
“We, therefore, urge all Nigerians to report any suspected attempt by any person or group of persons to buy or sell a COVID-19 vaccination card to us via our call centre line on 0700 220 1122, any of our social media handles (Facebook and Instagram), at the nearest police station or any other law enforcement agency. No one needs to cut corners on COVID-19 vaccination.
“The vaccines are free, and the vaccination cards are given free of charge at any of our designated health facilities after your vaccination,” Shuaib said.
South Africa Plans To Introduce Covid Passport
South Africa has announced plans to introduce a vaccine passport amid widespread mistrust of the Covid-19 vaccine in the continent’s most affected country.
President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement in a televised address to the nation and assured that the immunization of the adult population was a necessary prerequisite to fully reopen the economy and avoid a fourth wave of infections, while the number of cases has dropped sharply in the country.
In two weeks, we will “provide more information on a system of ‘vaccine passports’ that can be used as proof of vaccination for various purposes and events,” he said without providing further details.
He added that the “sustained decline in infections (…) over the past few weeks” would, however, allow for a relaxation of the restrictive measures starting Monday.
The nightly curfew will be extended by one hour, to 11 p.m., and the limits on gatherings will be raised.
Restrictions on the sale of alcohol will also be eased, although protective masks will still be required in places open to the public.
The peak of a third stubborn wave due to the Delta variant is now over. Over the past seven days, the average number of new daily infections has dropped 29 percent from the previous week and 48 percent from the week before, Ramaphosa said.
“Our most urgent task is to vaccinate our population,” he said, noting that vaccine supply “is no longer a constraint.”
“If many people are not vaccinated (…) the risk of new and more dangerous variants emerging is much greater,” he warned.
After delays in the supply and distribution of doses, the vaccination campaign is now struggling to take off because of skepticism about the vaccine, especially among men.
To date, just over seven million people have been fully vaccinated in South Africa, with more than a quarter of adults have received at least one dose.
The country’s goal is to vaccinate 40 million South Africans, or about two-thirds of the population, by next March.
Authorities have recorded more than 2.8 million cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, and 84,877 deaths, making it the worst affected country in Africa by the pandemic.
South African scientists are monitoring a new local variant with an unusually high mutation rate, dubbed C.1.2, although its presence is so far marginal among new cases detected in the country.
FG Launches GEEP 2.0 Plans To Lift 100M Nigerians Out Of Poverty
The Federal Government of Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja inaugurated the restructured Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) now known as GEEP 2.0. to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.
Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, speaking during the inauguration said the programme was a veritable tool designed to end poverty in many ways.
She said that GEEP was one of the components of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP).
According to her, the initial GEEP targets the unbanked poor and vulnerable but skilled population that has always been left out on credit delivery programmes and is directed at providing soft and affordable loans to finance their businesses.
“The GEEP is innovatively targeted and delivered under three unique products – the TraderMoni for marginalised youths, The MarketMoni targets vulnerable women, and the FarmerMoni specifically focuses on rural farmers.
“With President Muhammdu Buhari’s gracious approval of expansion to provide loans to an additional one million beneficiaries with emphasis to targeting smallholder farmers in the year 2020/2021, the GEEP has been restructured and is being flagged-off today as GEEP 2.0.
“The GEEP 2.0 is structured to effectively deliver soft loans and skills to a wide range of unemployed citizens including persons living with disability, marginalised women and unemployed youths amongst other vulnerable groups in our society.
“I wish to state here that the GEEP 2.0 is well-coordinated and has an implementation model that accommodates representation at the Federal, State and Local Government levels,” Farouq said.
Farouq said that part of the new strategies include an increase in the loan portfolio of TraderMon/ and Market Moni loans from N10, 000 to N50,000, while the FarmerMoni is now N300,000.
“There is also the provision of the value chain and creation of digital marketplace (E-platform) for beneficiaries to sell their products.
“In addition, there is a digital integration and coordination platform along with a strong and centralised monitoring and evaluation system aimed at enhancing loans recovery.’’
Speaking, the Minister of Youths and Sports, Mr Sunday Dare who also represented the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha said he was delighted at the inauguration of the GEEP 2.0.
Dare said whenever he saw other ministries that helped in reducing the burden of youths unemployment from his ministry, he was happy, adding that youths were the biggest beneficiaries of NSIP.
Similarly, Mr Clem Agba, the State Minister of Financial, Budget and National Planning said his ministry had been at the forefront of ensuring human dignity and protecting households from poverty.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen said women and youths were always affected by humanitarian crisis and poverty.
Tallen said that the GEEP 2.0 would now help the poor and marginalised women and youths who did not have collateral to secure loans.
Also, the Minister of State for Education, Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba said that the inauguration of the GEEP 2.0 was an indication to show that President Buhari meant it when he said he wanted to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
“It is evident that as we collaborate and corporate with all hands on deck, we shall achieve the ultimate objectives of the programme.”
Dr Garba Abari, the Director-General, National Orientation Agency (NOA) said the agency would work with state programme managers and focal persons toward the success of the NSIP.
Meanwhile, the Team Lead of the GEEP 2.0, Ms Zainab Musawa said that intended beneficiaries would be effectively supervised and monitored by desk officers in all 774 local government areas, state programme managers and the ministry in partnership with NOA.
“Essentially, GEEP 2.0 is a continuation of the Buhari administration’s laudable empowerment drive committed to the upliftment of oppressed Nigerians and we hope the programme will engender job creation.”
Ms Hadiza Hambuza, a representative of Access Bank Plc said the bank would work with the beneficiaries to achieve the objectives of the programme.
The event attracted officials from Presidency, National Assembly, NEMA, EFCC, FCTA Disability Commission among others.
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