Labour Protest: FG Moves to Secure Electricity Installations Nationwide


Ahead of today’s ill-advised plan by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) to picket distribution (Discos) and generation companies (Gencos) in protest against the recent increase in electricity tariffs, the federal government has deployed security agencies to protect all power installations across the country against any form of vandalism.
In protest against the implementation of cost-reflective tariffs in the power sector, NLC, TUC and their civil society allies had called for a nationwide protest, an action which has been rejected by the Discos and electricity workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE).

However, the federal government and other relevant stakeholders in the power sector have raised concern that the planned disruption of operations may have more severe consequences on consumers than the tariff hike, which is aimed at ensuring cost recovery, removal of the fixed charge, ensuring that consumers are billed for only what they consume, and network expansion to boost electricity delivery to consumers.

Also with the position of NUEE, there are strong indications that if the labour unions carry out their threat, a potential showdown with electricity workers and the resultant disruption of operations in the power sector could erode the recent gains recorded in electricity supply across the country.

Presidency sources, however assured THISDAY that the federal government would beef up security at all power installations across the country to ward off possible saboteurs.
A presidency official promised that any plan to disrupt operations at electricity facilities would be resisted by security agents that have been deployed to safeguard the power assets against sabotage.
Last night, the presidency was working frantically to get the unions to call off their protest.

Industry experts have also warned that the planned action would impact negatively on the power sector and the nation’s economy.
According to the experts, the new tariff structure seeks to ensure cost recovery in the power sector value chain, encourage power conservation by focusing on metering before billing, and also ensure that consumers are billed for only what they consume.
They argued that any disruptions at this time would negatively affect the steady progress being made in the sector in spite of gas pipeline vandalism and other acts of sabotage recently recorded in the oil and gas sector.
On February 2, the country recorded a peak of 5,074MW – a record-setting figure that reinforced the improvement in the transmission grid. This is the highest figure ever recorded by the industry.

Total energy wheeled out on February 2, 2016 also attained a record-setting peak of 109,372.01MWH (an average of 4447.88MWh/h).
Statistics also showed that the past three months have seen a series of record-setting figures and incremental growth in spite of the very challenging operational environment.
To ensure that the gains are not eroded by any protest, NUEE has kicked against the plan to picket the Discos and Gencos, describing the action as misdirected.

NUEE further stated that though it was opposed to the tariff hike, any protest against it should be targeted at the federal government and its agencies such as the Ministry of Power and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), and not the Gencos and Discos.
NUEE’s General Secretary, Mr. Joe Ajaero, recalled that when NUEE opposed the privatisation of the assets of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), many Nigerians misunderstood the position of electricity workers.
“We believe that it is our civic responsibility and duty to educate those championing the picketing exercise to be properly directed at the targets of their picketing effort.

“Let it be clear that NUEE supports every effort to resist the increase in electricity tariffs and other anti-people policies of the government but we will advise our compatriots to be target specific, so that we may not be accused of fighting the wrong parties in this case.
“Few days ago, the minister also counselled the National Assembly members that they cannot force the power companies not to increase tariffs because these companies do not have the power to do so,” Ajaero explained.
Also, the 11 distribution companies have cautioned Nigerians and particularly members of the NLC against conceding their platform to people who they said benefit from the country’s epileptic electricity supply.

The Discos, in reaction to the plan by the labour unions to picket their offices across the country, said that the protest would be dangerous for the country’s economic growth, as labour may be leading Nigerians into the hands of people who benefit from inadequate public power supply in the country.

They spoke through their group, the Association of Nigeria Electricity Distributors (ANED), yesterday in Abuja, adding that they were also making huge business sacrifices to stabilise electricity supply in Nigeria.
According to a statement from ANED’s Executive Director for Research and Advocacy, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, the country’s power sector now has an opportunity to grow its investment portfolio if the new cost-reflective tariffs, which labour is against, are allowed to remain in place.

“We are appealing to the organised labour and fellow compatriots to please join hands with the federal government and the power sector as we continue to work to improve the supply of electricity in the country.
“Grievances that we have against the system that has functioned poorly over the last 50 years should not be transferred to operators who have put their investments at risk and are working hard to inject capital and entrepreneurial expertise into turning around the sector for the greater good of the Nigerian electricity customer.

“In addition, a revived power sector will also hurt some ‘new businesses’ that depend on a moribund power sector to thrive. We should also be sure that we do not play into the hands of the proponents’ schemes and practices that only harm our economy as a nation and our quality of life as individuals,” the Discos said in the statement.

They noted that the recent new generation peak of 5,075MW recorded by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) was indicative that the sector could improve given the right opportunity, which the reviewed tariffs represent.
The association explained that the increase could not be described as a windfall for the Discos, but was a necessity for the critical upgrade of the country’s electricity infrastructure, which it added has suffered from decades of neglect.
The Discos, in this regard, called for the understanding of Nigerians and the labour unions.

“For the first time in the history of Nigeria’s power sector, electricity generation last week hit an all-time high of 5,075MW, demonstrating the evolution in the capacity of the sector to meet the country’s power needs, a major milestone in the drive to grow the nation’s economy and improve the quality of life.

“Nigeria’s growth has been crippled for too long by decades-old deficiencies in the power sector. Private sector-driven efficiency and realistic market prices can, and are already giving the sector a new lease of life,” the association said.
It added: “We believe that this is only the beginning and we can accomplish much more improvement in the sector, if all the stakeholders work together as partners.
“A power sector that delivers fully on its mandate to provide electricity, sufficient to drive Africa’s largest economy and the 22nd largest economy in the world, is for the mutual benefit of all Nigerians.

“Achieving this goal, should be our collective objective, investors, operators and customers alike.”
The association noted that its members are sensitive to customers’ anxiety over the recent increase in electricity tariffs, adding: “We hereby assure our customers that the increase is no more than that which is necessary for the critical improvement of electricity infrastructure that has suffered decades of neglect.

“The increase will help to mitigate the negative cash flows and revenue shortfalls that have bedevilled the sector since the handover of the assets to private operators, and hindered the ability of generation companies to increase power supply due to their inability to pay gas suppliers.”

Speaking on the sacrifices the Discos have made in accepting the new tariff regime, the association said: “Indeed the indication of our good faith to work towards such improvement and in recognition of our need to listen to our customers, was the removal of fixed charges from the revised tariff structure.

“The removal of the fixed charge constitutes a revenue risk to operators, but it is a risk that we are prepared to take to march in lockstep with our customers and loudly convey the message that the sector’s players are making every kind of compromise possible to ensure that affordable but sustainable and appropriately priced electricity is delivered to homes and businesses.”

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