NLC, TUC berate govt over non-compliance with court orders on electricity tariff

By The Citizen

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have berated the Federal Government for going ahead with the new increment 45 per cent in electricity tariff despite a subsisting court order.

Speaking at the opening session of the Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting in Abuja, President of NLC, Wabba Ayuba reiterated the opposition of the increment saying it is illegal, unfair and unjustifiable exploitation of the already hapless Nigerians.

He declared that the due process in the extant laws for such an increment was not followed in consonance with Section 76 of the Power Sector Reform Act, 2005.

Wabba also highlighted that there has been no significant improvement in service delivery coupled with the fact that most consumers are not metered in accordance with the signed Privatization Memorandum (MoU) of November 21, 2013, which stipulates that within 18 months gestation period, all consumers are to be metered. He also hinted that there is a subsisting court order dated May 28. 2015 by Honourable Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, in the case of Toluwani Yemi-Adebiyi versus NERC and Ors, that there shall be no increment until the determination of the substantive suit.

The NLC Chief, therefore, stated that the increment at this time negates the present biting prevailing economic recession vis-a-vis an attempt to further impoverish the poor masses.

He said the stakeholders in the electricity supply chain at its recent meeting demanded an 'immediate halt of this morbid and exploitative intention' with a warning that an observance in the breach would attract a response such as the mobilization of all Nigerians to resist the new tariff, mass protest or picketing of all DISCOs nationwide, and a directive to all consumers to reject any bill with the new tariff.

With the mandate given to it by the stakeholders, Wabba said the simultaneous process of mobilization and strategic communication with relevant government institutions and individuals such as Minister of Power Works and Housing, NERC and the leadership of the National Assembly have failed to yield any fruitful result.

'Sequel to this, a joint forum (comprising critical stakeholders in the power sector) led by the National Assembly and of which Congress was part, was set up with a view to finding an enduring solution. In the interim, the Senate had ordered a return to the old tariff structure even as some questioned the legality of such an order. The players in the power sector did all they could to frustrate this process including outrageous demands, threats to declare force majeure and with the possible consequence of a power sector collapse,' he explained.

Wabba also said the order of Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, was also ignored by the agents of the Federal Government.

Justice Idris was reportedly said: 'The point must be made that obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly take the oath of office to protect and preserve the Constitution is desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law. In a constitutional democratic society like ours, this is meant to be a norm.

'It is an act of apostasy for government to ignore the provisions of the Law and the necessary rules meant to regulate matters. I must say it loud and clear that the government of this country shall be a government of laws and not men.'

Wabba noted that while all these efforts were on, the tariff increase has remained, and under a worsening power supply situation saying not a few Nigerians are groaning under this burden and are looking onto the Congress for a solution.

According to Wabba, the total collapse of power generation to zero megawatt for three hours on Thursday, March 31, 2016, buttressed the need to begin to seek urgent solution to the electricity crisis beyond consistent tariff increments.

On its part, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) President, Bobboi Kaigama called on distribution companies to stop sending estimated bills to customers.

He added: 'We (TUC) demand that the power distribution companies should stop sending so-called 'estimated' bills to Nigerians. They are defrauding consumers while the government consistently looks the other way. How else do we explain the fact that Nigerians are paying for services not rendered? We recall that the Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola, prior to the 2015 elections said 'any government that cannot fix power in six months is irresponsible.' Should we now say that both the minister and the present administration are irresponsible? Or shall we now conclude that this administration is conspiring with operators in the power sector to rip Nigerians off?' The Guardian