For all intents and purposes, they never meant well for us. The evidence is all over and overwhelming. Their body language, actions and inactions speak volumes. It is obvious. They want to multiply our struggles this year.
They are bold and proud, not pretentious. No, they are clear in their dirty minds. Our burden must be made heavier. And our woes increased uncontrolled. They are interested in anything that brings more misfortunes.
The greed in them is making them irresponsible and irresponsive. They don’t envisage any respite for us. Not even in the nearest future. They insist our road must remain rough, tough, hard and harsh. They are resolute we must tread this path in great anguish.
That is why they dumped the new electricity tariff on our laps unsolicited. That is not it. But the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) goofed big time. That policy is dangerously standing on shaky legs.
The commission did not get it right. It will continue quivering, quaking, trembling and wobbling. It is not a well-thought-out policy. Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, confirms that much. We will get to him shortly.
To start with, an increase from N2 to N4 can never ever be a 50 per cent hike. It’s a clear 100 per cent jump. You see, they even started the New Year with blatant lies. We wonder aloud.
Within a few hours, NERC issued policy statements, tweeted, etcetera. It countered and contradicted itself many times over! Why is the commission in such a hurry to inflict pains on us, and so early in the New Year? It is bent on increasing our pain.
The commission’s database could be questionable. It used the 14.9 per cent inflation rate rise in November 2020 and foreign exchange of N379.4/$1 as of December 29, 2020, to determine the tariff jump.
It certainly made the whole policy frivolous and mischievous. Which was the reason for the outrage that followed. Perhaps, human rights lawyer and labour activist, Femi Aborisade, offered the most ferocious attack. He described it is an open declaration of economic war against the masses.
You dare not fault him. He spoke in Ibadan, Oyo State: “The recent electricity tariff increase is an urgent clarion call on the masses to stand up and resist with unprecedented peaceful mass actions, protests and rallies ever seen in Nigeria. Ordinary people, organisations, trade unions and young people, including the army of the unemployed, must organise to resist peacefully.
“The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) is the economic programme of the APC-led Federal Government. The policy in the ERGP on electricity is continual grant of tariff increases to encourage investors in the sector. This policy is not hidden. It is an open declaration of war against the masses.
“The APC-led Federal Government, like the PDP before it, is in power to wage economic war against the economic wellbeing of the masses. It is not a hidden agenda. The masses, therefore, have no choice but respond in like measure, to defend their interest, resist the tariff increase with peaceful action.
“Ultimately, as (Babatunde) Fashola (former two-term governor of Lagos State, and current Minister of Works and Housing), said pre-2015 elections, if the masses want to enjoy electricity supply at affordable tariffs, they should engage in peaceful protest, demanding an immediate end to APC misrule.”
The fury, anger and rage that trailed the hike beat NERC hollow. It was forced to retrace its missteps. It disowned itself so vehemently at the speed of light.
This was how its spokesperson, Mr. Micheal Faloseyi, made the denial in Abuja on Tuesday: “The commission hereby states unequivocally that no approval has been granted for 50 per cent tariff increase in the tariff order for Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs), which took effect from January 1, 2021.
“On the contrary, the tariff for customers on Service Bands D and E (customers being served less than an average of 12 hours of supply per day for a period of one month) remains frozen and subsidised in line with the policy direction of the Federal Government.
“In compliance with the Electric Power Sector Reforms Acts (EPRSA) and the nation’s tariff methodology for biannual review, the rates for Service Bands A, B, C, D and E have been adjusted by N2.00 to N4.00 per kWhr to reflect the partial impact of inflation and movement in foreign exchange rates.”
Double-speak! It’s the height of deceit. They are not even lying intelligently. Neither are they clever by half. We insist, that “adjustment” is 100 per cent. From N2.00 to N4.00 is double increase, not half. In any case, what exactly is the difference between “adjustment” and “increase”?
All of us cannot be fools at the same time. You keep on “adjusting” your rate every six months without corresponding improvement in service delivery. In fact, the higher your tariff, the poorer the service rendered.
Yet you have the uncanny audacity to tell us you have only adjusted. Faloseyi’s unwanted advice: “Any customer that has been impacted by any rate increase beyond the above provision of the tariff order should report to the commission at [email protected]”
Keyamo half-heartedly rose to our defence. Surprised? He pretended to be furious. He came hard on the commission. He saw the announcement as out of place and too hasty. That same Tuesday, he fumed:
“I am the chairman of the sub-committee consisting of the Federal Government side and Labour side that has been mandated to go round the country to interact and consult with stakeholders and the Discos to find an acceptable and cost-reflective tariff that should be paid by Nigerians.
“We are still in the process of carrying out our assignment, we have not finished it. There has been no increase in tariff. What we agreed to do was to freeze certain bands.” How?
His response: “You know we have band A, B, C, D and so on and so forth. In the interim, what we did was to adjust certain bands and to ensure that certain persons who are supposed to be on some bands are not wrongly put on some other bands.”
Eventually, he more or less came back to support NERC’s position: “What has just been done is adjustment of certain bands but there has not been any increase in tariffs.”
We disagree. After the adjustment, what would happen? Simple: Tariff moves from N2.00 to N4.00. Then, what is that, increase or decrease; or better still, change?
Where does Keyamo really stand? “What NERC has released does not reflect what we agreed upon at the level of the committee. I can say I was not consulted and members of the committee also said they were not consulted.”
He mooted a fire-brigade approach: “We are trying to fix a meeting for Thursday to find out exactly what happened and take it from there. But I can assure (Nigerians) that we will soon come out with a statement before Nigerians to show the true position of things.”
The tragic interpretation of NERC policy is staring us in the face. We are in for more struggles in times ahead. The increase comes up twice a year to muzzle us further.
This is in addition to our existing legion of struggles, including: COVID-19, National Identification Number (NIN) and fuel pump price hike.
Help, our fate still hangs in balance!