The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has pleaded with Nigerians to accept the new hike in electricity tariff, describing it as “a painful pill,” that must be swallowed for the interest of the country.
Fashola made the statement in Lagos on Monday during a meeting with all stakeholders in the power sector. He also inspected ongoing works at the Alagbon Local 2x15MVA, 33/11 KV injection substation in Ikoyi.
He told journalists that the right thing could have been to increase the power before the tariff but, according to him, unfortunately it would not be possible considering the rot the government met on ground. He also appealed with customers to accept it in good faith, with the assurance that they will eventually get value for their money.
Importantly, I understand that people who have been disappointed over a long time will feel a sense of concern that again tariffs have gone up. But the truth is that these tariffs ought to have been there from day one. I don’t know why the government of yesterday was not courageous enough to tell us this was the price.
It is a painful pill that I must appeal that we swallow. It is like quinine and malaria. It’s painful; it’s not sweet, I know that, but I do it because we are not left with many choices. This is the first major decision in power that this administration has taken. There are other problems.
I can only appeal for some understanding and some trust that we do this in the best interest of our country. It is a hard decision, but I think down the line, we will have cause to look.
Meanwhile, there were protests across the country yesterday organized by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) in collaboration with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) expressing their dissatisfaction over the recent 45% increase in electricity tariff.
The NLC president, comrade Ayuba Wabba, led the protest in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Surrounded by hundreds of workers carrying different placards, they headed to the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) at Wuse Zone 4, then to NERC office, and finally they marched to the National Assembly.
Wabba said there is no co-relation between the quality of service delivery, electricity supply and the increment tariff, thus, the workers rejects the hike and consider it unnecessary.
He further explained,
The new tariff is only intended to protect the interest of a selected few and not serve the interest of other Nigerians. In view of the above, we demand a reversal of the tariff increase and for prepaid meters be made available free to all consumers. We must make the Minister of Power, Works and Housing who has been advancing spurious argument in justification of unwarranted increment know that Nigeria is our collective heritage and Nigeria cannot be taken for a ride. We must prosecute this action until we achieve our desired goals.
At the National Assembly, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki assured the workers that the lawmakers would look into the issue and ensure that it is resolved in the interest of the ordinary Nigerian.
Addressing the protesters, Saraki said
I welcome you to this place because it belongs to you. We are only tenants for four years. We are here to serve the Nigerian people. I want to assure you that the Eighth National Assembly is for the people.
The protest also went on in other states of the federation including Kaduna, Uyo, Calabar, Lokoja, Akure, Maiduguri and Oshogbo.