ELECTRICITY TARIFF: TIME TO ORGANISE WITH MASS ACTION
Few days after the end of the year, 2020. On January 5, 2021; the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, shock electricity consumers with a new declaration to increase the electricity tariff. According to the declaration, this “new tariff would be effective till June 2021 while a Cost Reflective Tariff would be activated from June (July) to December 2021”. With reactions from across all divisions, the government resorted to a doublespeak mode when Mr Festus Keyamo publicly denied any increment but that it “only adjusted bands”, assuring Nigerians that immediately a “cost-reflective tariff” is agreed upon, a fixed amount shall be announced.
However, Nigerians especially the working masses should not be lead into the ashtray of deception, by the sugar-coated words of the Minister of State for Labour and Employment saying electricity consumers should expect something affordable. This doublespeak must not be accepted, how can the government that had agreed with Labour to reverse the electricity tariff increase, upon which the General STRIKE was called off last September 28, be the one now initiating an increase, this in itself is enough to show that the Buhari regime is first and foremost a government for big business and profiteers.
This new electricity tariff is just one of the many attacks the government is releasing as a grenade on Nigerians. More neo-liberal attacks are in the briefcase of the Buhari regime courtesy PRIVATIZATION. This is what capitalism is all about. It is a system that is only interested in making life hard and difficult for millions of Nigerians, who are still struggling to crawl out from the pit of both the lockdown and economic downturn occasioned by continuous anti-people policies and attack on the working masses.
Painfully in the last four years, increment in electricity tariff has jumped to 300%. In fact, “between 2015 and 2019, the average electricity tariff climbed from N12kWh to about N32kWh.” (Punch, 28 August 2019). And with this recent increment, it is expected to get worse via the estimated billing, which might be 100% more going by the unjust crazy bills the Disco distributes to electricity consumers.
PRIVATIZATION IS NOT WORKING ONLY FEEDING THE DISCOS’
Since the privatization of the power sector in 2013, megawatts has remained the same. Compared to other countries in the world, Nigeria is ranked 171 out of the 190 countries in the world, where people don’t have access to electricity. Since the Gencos’ and Discos’ took over, megawatts has always remained between 3000 to 5000mw.
The challenge before this sector is capitalism and its anti-people policy of privatisation, which seeks to hand over the economy completely to Capitalist sharks for profiteering at the expense of the working masses. N831bn in Two Years between 2014 and 2017, with an increased margin of 62% and 66% in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Even more interesting is that a whooping sum of N473 billion” from estimated billing. And this is just a fraction of the least, the DISCOS’ had been smiling to the bank with truckloads of profit.
In addition, the privatization exercise is a double-edged sword, not only in fattening the bank account of the DISCOS’ but also in the casualization of electricity workers. Hundreds and thousands of electricity workers are casuals. Not a single field worker had been employed, trained as staff since these profit organizations: DisCos indirectly owned by capitalist politicians took over. More than half or so of the workforce in the Eleven DisCos are all casuals. This is what capitalism translates to in the end, pay as little as possible, to workers to guarantee super-profits for the capitalist Sharks.
ONLY MASS ACTIONS CAN FORCE TOTAL REVERSAL
In moving forward, only an organise actions of electricity consumers, labour and community organisations, socialist activists and the Nigerian masses can force the Buhari regime to reverse the hike of electricity tariff. Organised mass actions of peaceful demonstrations, picketing, protests, community campaigns and social media outcry with hashtag like #EndTariffHike, #EndPrivatization, #ForSocialism, should be used to rally Nigerians against rejecting it.
Working people must come to the understanding that the ruling elites, the Buhari regime, and indeed any government that based itself on the philosophy of capitalism does not represent our interests as working people. And that only by getting organised, and building a movement of resistance, uniting all of the efforts in the communities, in the North and South of the country in a united movement against electricity increase tariff increase, to make people not pay more for darkness in their household, and demanding for renationalization of the private sector, can we bring an end to these attempt of the capitalist sharks to make as much as possible, with significantly little to improve the power sector.
Only through our united efforts of struggle can the ruling elites be forced to grant a concession to the working masses. Protest is a right and as working people, we must use it to organise ourselves, push our position and programme to win a concession to record success in our struggles against capitalism. And ultimately, to fight for a new plan socialist society through a revolutionary struggle to end the system of capitalism and put in place a government of the working people run and managed democratically working people.
Above all, the labour leaders – NLC, TUC – must be challenged. They must wake up from their historical responsibility, to over leadership to the yearning and aspiration of the working masses by declaring for a day of action to reject this increment, and link up all of the growing agitations in the communities against electricity tariff hike and disconnections when less than 8 hours electricity is daily supplied. While welcoming the launch of the WHERE IS THE LIGHT? MOVEMENT and others already active, the task before the working masses is not only to strive for a nationwide planned action for reversal, but also demand organised industrial actions, picketing, and insisting on the re-nationalization of the power sector under the democratic management and control of workers and the oppressed mass, which has been the yearning of millions of working people and electricity consumers, since the privatization of the power sector.