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Labour Shuts Down NERC, DisCos In States

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) yesterday shut down electricity distribution companies (DIsCos) and offices of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) across the federation.

In the protest prompted by the recent hike of electricity tariffs by NERC and the DisCos, the unions called for a complete reclamation of public electricity assets.

The leadership of the organised labour made the request yesterday during a protest at NERC headquarters in Abuja, where workers expressed their stand against the recent hike in electricity tariffs.

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The demonstration saw workers brandishing placards with messages such as, “We are not a generator Republic,” and “Let the poor breathe. Give us affordable and constant light,” signaling a deep-seated frustration with the current state of the power sector.

NLC president, Comrade Joe Ajaero, while addressing the protesters, labelled the privatisation efforts as a colossal failure and insisted on a reversal.

He highlighted the disproportionate impact of tariff increases on wage earners who, unlike business owners, cannot adjust their N30,000 current minimum wage to offset the rising costs of energy utilities.

The labour leader lamented workers' plight over the electricity tariff hike: “The stagnancy in wages, coupled with hikes in electricity and fuel prices, is pushing workers to the brink”.

Ajaero also pointed out the adverse effects on small and medium-sized enterprises, which are crucial to the informal economy, contributing to Nigeria's burgeoning unemployment crisis.

Ajaero reiterated the workers' rejection of the recent tariff hike and the classification of customers into different bands.

The labour centre further urged the government to honour the September 2021 agreement, reaffirmed in 2023, which stipulates a halt to further tariff increases until specific conditions are met.

These conditions include a review of the privatisation process, the de-dollarisation of gas supply for electricity generation, and the widespread distribution of prepaid meters.

Before any tariff adjustments, he said, NLC expects NERC to engage in stakeholder consultations, a step that was seemingly overlooked in the recent increase.

He said, “Workers are hit hardest by the increase in electricity tariff. Unlike business people, wage earning workers cannot adjust their income when the cost of utilities are increased.

“The stagnancy in wage amidst increases in electricity and refined petroleum products push workers over and beyond the limits of sanity and survival.

“Small and medium scale businesses which accommodate millions of workers in the informal economy are severely affected by the increases in energy cost, leading to shutdown of businesses.”

In response, NERC chairman, Sanusi Garba acknowledged the peaceful nature of the labour protest and the concerns raised.

He assured that the commission would consider the issues of tariff affordability and diversification of energy sources, mentioning the operational status of the Zungeru 700 megawatt power plant as a positive development.

The NLC and TUC picketed the headquarters of Jos Electricity Distribution Company (JED) along Ahmadu Way in the Plateau State capital.

They sealed off the JED tower office in compliance with the directive of their national secretariat.

LEADERSHIP observed that workers of the electricity company were locked out by an enforcement team as early as 6:30 am.

The spokesman of Jos DisCo Dr. Elijah Adankole, who confirmed the action to newsmen, said, “The office of JED has been picketed. We were locked out, when we came to the office this morning. It has been sealed, nobody is allowed to enter. Even me (the spokesman) and the chief security officer were locked out.”

Members of the organised labour in Ebonyi State also shut down the offices NERC and Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) in Abakaliki, the state capital, over the increase in the electricity tariffs.

The labour leaders at about 7:30am blocked the NERC office at Nsugbe Street, Abakaliki, chanting solidarity songs.

Apparently, aware of the possible picketing of their office, the members of staff of NERC locked up the building and abandoned it.

Undeterred by the absence of NERC officials, the labour leaders still blocked the entrance gate of the NERC office for about an hour to ensure no one gained entrance into the premises.

The NLC and TUC also shut down the headquarters of Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) in Akure, the Ond State capital.

The unions blocked the main gates of the BEDC, leaving the members of staff stranded outside the buildings.

The labour leaders arrived at the BEDC head office in Akure early in the morning to prevent the staff from resuming work by blocking the main gate.

The NLC and TUC in Bayelsa State rejected the federal government's increase in electricity tariffs amid the current economic hardship in the country and picketed the office of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) in Yenagoa.

The state chairman of TUC, Comrade Julius Laye, said introducing another taxation is not a way to go on Nigerians who are already suffering.

He wondered why government is trying to bring two taxes, the electricity tariff hike and cyber security tax, despite the suffering in the country.

He urged the government to gauge the feelings of Nigerians at the moment and allow the masses to breathe.

The Adamawa State chapter of NLC also shut down the regional offices of the Yola Electricity Distribution Company (YEDC) and the office of the Electricity Regulatory Commission of Nigeria (ERCN).

The state NLC chairman, Mr Emmanuel Fashe, who addressed members of the union at the premises of the picketed offices in Yola, said the action was to protest the exorbitant electricity tariffs.

 “Our action to picket these offices was sequel to the directive from our headquarters and it is a nationwide action,” he said.

Members of the organised labour in Osun State blocked the main entrance of the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) Business Hub, Osogbo, protesting the recent hike in electricity tariff.

The union leaders locked the entrance gates of IBEDC Business Hub and other sub-offices in Osogbo, with an instruction to security personnel not to allow anyone to gain access into the offices.

TUC state chairman, Abimbola Fasasi, said that the protest was to make a statement and let the federal government know that the electricity tariff increment was unacceptable by Nigerians.

In Kebbi State, the organised shut down offices on the directives of their national headquarters.

They stormed the KEDCO and NERC offices in Birnin Kebbi where they ensured that all the offices were locked and the workers complied with their unions' order.

Workers in Ekiti State stormed offices of Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) to protest the hike in electricity tariff.

 


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