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protesters said there was no justification for the hike, with the organised labour warning that if the decision was not rescinded, it could be forced to order an indefinite strike.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.
FG Has Paid Fuel marketers N74B in Seven Months — NMDPRA
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) on Wednesday disclosed that the federal government has paid oil marketers N74 billion as bridging claims in last seven months..
The agency said it was reacting to claims by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association Nigeria (IPMAN), Suleja branch, that continuing fuel scarcity was caused by non-payment of bridging claims.
The agency said it paid N71.2 billion bridging claims and another N2.7 billion freight differentials to the marketers as of June 6.
In May, IPMAN said the government owed its members half a trillion naira being the cost of transporting petrol across the country.
However, at the time NMDPRA had claimed to have paid oil marketers bridging claims of about N59 billion in five months.
In recent months, fuel scarcity has worsened in Abuja and several other cities across the country.
Marketers had listed the high cost of buying petrol at the depots and the high cost of diesel to truck them as the major factors responsible for the recent queue.
On Monday, the government announced that the nation’s capital petroleum deliveries were up nearly 100 per cent after the government offered additional N10 freight reimbursements to marketers.
The statement by the NMDPRA reads: “The attention of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) has been drawn to allegations made by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association Nigeria (IPMAN Suleja Branch) on product scarcity as a result of non-payment of bridging claims.
“The authority chief executive of the NMDPRA, at a meeting held on 17th May 2022 with IPMAN bridging payment was discussed extensively and the processes were explained and agreed upon by IPMAN.
“He assured IPMAN of NMDPRA’s willingness to continue making payments of outstanding claims to promote seamless operations.
“Pursuant to the meeting, the NMDPRA went ahead to make an additional payment of N10 billion in June and sought for an upward review of the freight rate which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari and is currently being implemented.
“The Authority wishes to reiterate that bridging payment is an ongoing process which is carried out after due verification exercise by the Authority and Marketers.
“So far, the Authority paid N71,233,712,991 bridging claims and another N2,736,179,950.84 freight differentials to the Marketers as at 6th June 2022.
“A breakdown of payment made to Marketers is as follows: Major Marketers (MOMAN) received N9,958,777,487.24, IPMAN members were paid N42,301,923,616.96, NNPC Retails N6,661,459,118.61 while DAPPMAN members were paid N12,303,195,651.57, these translate to a total of N73,969,892,941.84.
“It is disheartening that despite these payments and increase of N10 bridging cost, which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari two weeks ago, IPMAN could turn around to accuse the NMDPRA of insensitivity,” the statement said.
It said NMDPRA remains committed to ensuring a safe, efficient, and effective conduct of midstream and downstream petroleum operations.
Nigeria-Cameroon Link Bridge up for Inauguration this June – Fashola
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has stated that the Nigeria-Cameroon link bridge will be inaugurated this June.
Speaking at the 16th inter-ministerial meeting of the group in Abuja, Fashola who doubles as the Chairman of the five regional ministerial steering committees, explained that the largely funded bridge by the African Development Bank (AfDB) is completed and in hopes that ECOWAS would deliver support for the inauguration.
“We have completed a new link bridge that links Nigeria to Cameroon, and it was funded largely by the AfDB and we are hoping that the ECOWAS commission will give us the necessary support to ensure the formal opening of that bridge sometime in the month of June,” he said.
The commitment to the piece of infrastructure, according to the minister, is to transform the road network into a first-class six-lane motorway, emphasizing that while speed is important, quality must not be lost.
“We’re trying to deliver a better life for five countries and over 40 million people who use that corridor, almost on a daily basis.
“The future is bright, this is an important investment for the people of Africa to achieve the objective of the Africa Union (AU) to create a trans-African highway,” he stated.
Lydie Ehouman, AfDB’s Chief Transport Economist and Project Task Manager, also spoke at the event, stating that the bank had been able to acquire an additional €3.5 million for the road project.
Investors King gathered that the total sum available for the initial financing of the project’s strategic research has increased to $41 million.
“The agreement for the on-lending of this additional grant by the bank to ECOWAS is currently being finalised. Thus, in addition to its substantial contribution of $25 million, the bank will have mobilised €12.63 million in the form of a grant from the European Union.
“This brings the total amount available for the financing of this highly strategic study to the equivalent of about US$ 41 million,” she stated.
She did, however, point out that specialists in member countries’ claims of delays were untrue, because the arrangement was that labor should persist while any differences were aired and rectified.
UNDP, DPGA to Promote Global Digital Goods
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA), the government of Norway, and Sierra Leone have agreed to promote inclusive digital public infrastructure in countries across the world.
On Wednesday, Investors King gathered that world leaders, development organisations and philanthropic funders are set to invest in a “large-scale technology sharing, funding, and commitment to supporting the international cooperation agenda.”
In its published statement, UNDP stated that the agreement is to improve governance frameworks, which are critical to building a resilient future for countries.
At the event, global leaders committed their efforts to funding and the implementation of digital public infrastructure through a newly established Digital Public Goods Charter (DPG), which serves as a framework to increase international cooperation on this plan.
With its DPG Charter, co-led by the DPGA and the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), the UNDP outlines a clear vision for a coordinated global approach to building a safe, trusted, and inclusive digital public infrastructure using DPGs.
“Doing so can enable countries – regardless of income levels – to transform services and service delivery for people and communities everywhere,” the statement read.
The DPG Charter, and the commitments made by global leaders, are especially relevant given the devastating socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting climate disruption.
These challenges, compounded with the unprecedented food, energy, and financial crisis added by the war in Ukraine, are creating an urgent need for global action.
Digital Public Goods are open-source solutions used to build digital public infrastructure (DPI), enabling countries to provide better services and foster inclusive economic growth.
While the Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) involves digital systems like cash transfers, digital identification, and data exchange that enable the adequate provision of essential society-wide functions. It also allows the building of resilient crisis recovery.
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