The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has vowed to resist any attempt by either public or private enterprises to hike user access and service charges under the guise of economic downturn occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who said Nigerians were already passing through a chain of very hard times, said they were entitled to fair, equitable and just utility charges. In a statement made available to newsmen yesterday in Abuja,
Wabba demanded that Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) should refund all estimated billings spanning into years, pay the citizenry the cost of inefficiency they have admitted to, and pay back all bailout funds they have unjustly collected. NLC stated that for equity sake, the electricity companies must make refunds of all estimated billings collected in the past years. “In the interest of fairness, equity and
justice, we demand that the DisCos refund Nigerians all the estimated billings that had been unjustly collected from our people all these years.
We also demand that DisCos must pay consumers the cost that their inefficiency has imposed on citizens, residents and businesses. DisCos must also repay bailout funds they had unjustly collected from public coffers. “We wish to remind the DisCos that the provision of pre-paid meters, transformers and investment in the sector are statutorily the job of the DisCos, not consumers or government. DisCos were fully aware of these conditions before subscribing to the power sector privatization programme.
“Enough of the lies, deceit and exploitation of the Nigerian people! On the strength of the open admission by DisCos in Nigeria to their own grand incompetence and crass failure, we call on the Federal Government to immediately set in motion processes for the review of the power sector privatization.
“The NLC rejects any further hike in electricity tariff, pump price of petrol and other essential public utility charges. The NLC is fully ready to mobilize our people to resist attempts by anyone to impose modernday slavery on Nigerians – be they DisCos or Regulators of Public Utilities.”
According to him, it was not enough for the National Assembly to have successfully stopped the proposed hike in electricity tariff and demand reversal of the power sector privatization programme due to its failure.
His words: “As much as we are pleased with the current truce on the campaign by DisCos to subject Nigerians to killer-electricity charges, we know that the battle is far from over. We know for certain that those bent on cornering our choice national assets for next to nothing and using same to unleash unfair, inequitable and unjust tariff regime on the Nigerian public, are not relenting.
“They are planning a rebound. We also know that a number of public and private institutions are tempted to follow the ignominious path of DisCos in flogging their fellow compatriots with scourges of scorpion. Hiding under COVID-19, we are aware of plans by our airport authorities, airlines, banks and others to hike user access and services charges. Some of these charges are already in play.
“It is very unfortunate that these public utilities tariff increases, including the lifting of price cap on refined petroleum prod-ucts especially the premium motor spirit, is coming at a time when Nigerians are going through some of the worst socio-economic vicissitudes as occasioned by the novel coronavirus disease.”
The organised labour stated that millions of Nigerians have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic while others are scrambling for survival.
According to him, “Every passing day throws up new strains of the devastating impact of COVID-19 on our shores. Millions of Nigerians continue to lose their jobs on a daily basis, enlarging the already gaping net of the poor and vulnerable in our land.
A few hours before the DisCos unveiled their intention to afflict Nigerians with the most outrageous tariff hike in our history of public utility charges, millions of jobless and poor Nigerians were scrambling for a space in the N-Power social support portal.
“This reinforces the fact that majority of Nigerians, including workers and pensioners, are going through very hard times. Certainly, this is not the time for any conscientious private sector organization or public institution to contemplate any hike of essential goods and services.”