Electricity Tariff:CSOs Want GENCOs And DISCOs Privatization Agreement Reversed

Comrade Sina Odugbemi

A coalition of civil society organizations have called for the reversal of privatization agreements between the federal government and the GENCOs and DISCOs.

The group speaking at a press conference on Wednesday in Lagos with the #Where’s is the Light?’ said the two groups have failed abysmally to supply 24/7 electricity as promised .

They however deplored the idea of estimated billing and the ‘ crazy bills’ which have shortchanged consumers who are making huge payments monthly without the commensurate power supply.

Below is the full text of the press conference 

Text of Press Conference by #where’s the Light Movement held on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 at International Press Centre (IPC), Ogba Lagos.

POWER PRIVATISATION AND POWER COMPANIES HAVE FAILED; REVERSE THE PRIVATISATION NOW! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!

NIGERIANS ARE TIRED OF PAYING FOR DARKNESS

We welcome members of the media and Nigerians in general to this important press conference. 

Thank you for honouring our invitation.

INTRODUCTION 

WHAT WE STAND FOR:

Where’s is the Light considers Light as a Social and Inalienable Right.

There must be availability of electricity supply to all, that is accessible and affordable to all citizens without discrimination based on economic status, gender, tribe, religion or profession. The social welfare and right of all Nigerians must be guaranteed at all times in accordance with Section 14 (1) (b) of 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended). Section 14 (1b) expressly states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”  

Provision of Light enhances comfort, wellbeing, productivity and security of lives and property of citizens. The absence or inadequacy of electricity supply to the citizens negates the intendment, purpose and the spirit of Article 14 (1) (b) of 1999 constitution.  

Vision and Mission Statement

Our vision is to have a country with 24hours available, accessible and affordable electricity supply to all citizens. 

Mission: 

To be a foremost, electricity consumers’ right protection national movement of communities in Nigeria, to inform, sensitise, mobilize against any factor that constitutes an obstacle to the goal of achieving 24hours available, accessible and affordable electricity supply in Nigeria. In achieving this, the movement will continually engage all critical stakeholders and the working masses in order to achieve 24 hours electricity supply.

Over 60 years of independence, the self-serving bourgeois ruling elite and power companies have condemned Nigerians to avoidable darkness and hopelessness as uninterrupted electricity has been made impossible in Nigeria. Electricity is life, it is extremely instrumental to production, service, education, healthcare, wellbeing etc. Due to the epileptic power supply, private generation through generators add to between 30 to 40 % production cost, a situation that renders local products and services uncompetitive in the global market and has forced many companies to collapse with its attendant mass job losses. 

METERING AND ESTIMATED BILLING

Meter is a tool for measuring electricity consumption, when Nigerians are denied meters and are forced to procure meters including paying outrageous (crazy) electricity bills, it is not just double exploitation, it is also stealing. The refusal by NEPA/PHCN and now Distribution (DISCOs) to issue prepaid meters was an orchestrated game plan to sustain issuance of outrageous electricity bills that do not reflect true consumption.

Previous exploitative metering policies just like Meter Asset Providers Regulation 2018 failed because most Nigerians cannot afford the outrageous cost; the government spent about 27 billion Naira of taxpayers’ money, despite this, consumers were forced to buy meters for about N50,000 for single-phase and about N90,000 for three-phase meters. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has just doled out another N18 billion to power companies as part of the federal government Mass Metering Programme. All these government’s interventions amount to fraudulently using public funds to bail out private power companies. 

WOEFUL PERFORMANCE OF POWER COMPANIES

Is it not a shame that after 60 years of independence, Nigeria is still battling with 2,000 to 4000 MW of electricity for a population of 200 million people? About 46% of Nigerians are not connected to the national electricity grid. Electricity is a fundamental right of all Nigerians that must be fought for, protected and guarded jealously.  

We were told that selling the power sector to private companies will develop the power sectors and resolve the myriad of problems, more than 7 years after privatization, the problems have increased. To make matters worse, the government has spent about N2 trillion bailing out the GENCOs and the DISCOs since privatization and has spent over $20 billion since 2005 and we are still in darkness. Hence, privatization of the power sector has failed woefully and has made poor electricity supply become worse. 

The power companies who bought about 60% ownership of the power sector (Generating and Distribution) at a rock bottom price of about N500 billion for a sector that is worth over N6 trillion have failed to invest in the sector, they are only interested in stealing from consumers through unfair policies (outrageous estimated billing and high tariff).   

Since the privatization of the power sector in November 2013, no single megawatt has been added independently by the Generating Companies (GENCOs); Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) has no capacity to transmit the very little generated electricity and we have to be entertained with incessant system collapse while the Distribution Companies (DISCOs) are too busy stealing from the people through overbilling to recognize the fact that transformers, cables, poles, substations, feeders etc., are not only grossly inadequate but also in decrepit conditions. Despite this darkness imposed on the people, the DISCOs have the effrontery to regularly reject electricity wheeled to them because they want to profit from the darkness imposed on us. DISCOs also force communities to procure distribution facilities like transformers, cables, poles etc., and transfer ownership to them. Any facility purchased by consumers belong to the consumers. Petrol customers don’t buy pumping machines for petrol stations, similarly, telephone users don’t contribute fund to buy and install masts. So, why are electricity consumers buying meters, transformers, cables and other facilities and yet Discos arm-twist people to lay claim to ownership. This is big fraud that must be stopped forthwith. 

Hence, the GENCOs, TCN and DISCOs have no capacity to deliver electricity to Nigerians, the only capacity they have is to impose more darkness on us. We have come to the conclusion that the government, NERC, GENCOs, DISCOs and TCN are in an unholy alliance against Nigerians. Their capitalist profit ideology is responsible for the widespread darkness and exploitation. 

TARIFF AND OVERBILLING   

Tariff and pricing is supposed to reflect current economic realities and the purchasing power of Nigerians. Unfortunately, electricity tariff pricing is far higher than what most Nigerians could afford. You can imagine that electricity billing for most workers and the poor are higher than house rent and some other cost variables put together. 

Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission only exists for the purpose of increasing tariff, satisfying the greedy appetite of the DISCOs/GENCOS and inflicting pain on Nigerians. DISCOs have the penchant for forcing new tenants/landlords to pay huge outstanding bills of supposed former tenants/landlords accumulated overtime through mostly fraudulent billing. Cases abound of disconnected consumers whose billing continued and forcing Nigerians to pay for electricity never supplied. The DISCOs have become so notorious that empty landed property are issued electricity bills.    

Currently, many estimated bills issued to poor and working class homes is more than N30,000 minimum wage, particularly since October 2020 when the exploitation was accelerated through the last tariff hike. The implication of this reality is that many Nigerians work only to be forced to surrender all their salaries or a large chunk of it to the DISCOs/GENCOs, and this high tariff is contributing to the growing poverty. It is a clear case of ‘monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’. 

Since 2002, electricity tariff has been reviewed upwards from about N6 to now about N40 making it over 550 percent increment in the last 18 years. The reasons adduced by NERC for increasing tariff are: (1) Inflation rate in Nigeria (11.3%), (2) US rate of inflation (1.8%), (3) gas price of $3.3 MMBTU, (4) exchange rate of N310 to a Dollar. Going by this template, tariff will be increased perpetually and it will get to N100 per kwh in no distant time. Already, many consumers who have prepaid meters are forced to switch off their gadgets while consumers on estimated billing have growing huge debt hanging on their necks. 

The current tariff is tied to the level of service consumers receive by location, which invariably means higher supply attracting higher tariff plan based on where one lives. We do not see the logic in this present segregated pricing based on bands/location as it has created an apartheid-style supply and pricing wherein rich communities are supplied more electricity than poorer communities. The power sector was built with taxpayers money irrespective of class and tribe, there cannot be any rationale for entrenched discriminated supply based on communities one lives. We are tired and reject this exploitative policy that plunges Nigerians to paying for darkness. 

The only way forward is for government to reverse the privatization policy, bring back the power sector under exclusive public ownership. Nigerians have witnessed both, that is, public and private ownership, service under the so-called private investors is worse. 

Considering the poor performance of successive bourgeois governments in Nigeria, we advocate the democratic control and management by workers and consumers in a more transparent manner. This is the only way looting of public funds, mismanagement, nepotism, cronyism and inefficiency can be put to check and sustain the growth and development of the power sector including guaranteeing uninterrupted and affordable electricity supply to all Nigerians.      

WHERE’S THE LIGHT MOVEMENT DEMANDS:

1.      Reversal of privatization policy. Electricity power industry should be returned to public ownership and under  democratic control and management of workers and consumers. 

2.      Reversal of the present tariff to N21 kwh and no to further increment in electricity tariff. 

3.      Issuance of meters to all Nigerian Consumers. No prepaid meters, no payment of bills by consumers.

4.       An end to extortionist policy that forces and arm-twists communities to procure electricity facilities (transformers, poles, aluminium conductors etc) and hand over ownership to the Discos.

5.      Cancelation of all debts accumulated through previous crazy and fraudulent billing.

6.      Massive public investment in the power sector to guarantee uninterrupted power supply to all Nigerians including those that are yet to be connected to the national grid. 

7.      We demand the immediate release of all consumers being held in police stations and correctional centres, or being prosecuted on cases of avoidable clashes with DISCOs. Peaceful negotiation and resolution should be the way out. 

8.      We demand a life insurance policy for TCN, GENCO and DISCOs’ workers that are regularly exposed to technical danger and mass anger in the course of performing their dangerous duty. We also demand a living wage to be paid to electricity workers and workers in general.

9.      Refund and compensation paid to all consumers that have been overbilled and underserved since this privatization fraud started. 

 OUR CALL 

1.      We call on Nigerians to join and be active in this movement (Where is the Light?) with the aim of ending this exploitative malady. 

2.      We call on CDAs, community associations, pro-labour groups to intensify mobilization of Nigerians in their respective communities.

3. We appeal for the unity of Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion and geography to be able to resist this exploitation and rescue the power from further collapse.   

4. We call on the leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to pull out of the ongoing discussion/negotiation with the government and the power companies and join in the mobilization of Nigerian workers and the masses, in general, to resist the ongoing rip-off and end this avoidable darkness.      

CONCLUSION

Where is the Light Movement is determined to sustain the sensitization, interaction and mobilization of Nigerians to resist the ongoing exploitation and extortion starting this year. A virtual situation room is to be established to monitor activities in the power industry and consumers’ exploitation in the country. In this regard, Consumers Free Toll Lines will soon be made available nationally to enhance communication between consumers, Where’s the Light Movement and other stakeholders. 

Consumers in communities in the states of the federation should also create situation room and make toll free lines available to themselves where complaints and ideas and solution can be discussed.  

A Book of Darkness will be publicly presented in due course. The Book of Darkness details the promises made and failure of successive governments in Nigeria and their private partners in crime of putting the country in darkness for over sixty years despite exploitation, extortion and pains unleashed on Nigerians. We are tired of excuses and stories, Where’s the Light?  

We are alerting Nigerians of our preparedness to lead a mass resistance movement against the government and the power companies. We appeal to the general public to join the mass protest and other mass actions called by ‘Where is the Light Movement in future’. 

Arise Nigerians and demand 24-hour uninterrupted electricity supply. It’s possible and desirable. 24 hours electricity is no magic, it’s taken for granted in many countries of the world. Enough is Enough!

                                             SIGNED

Sina Odugbemi    

Convener

08034723625

                                                                  Comrade Chinedu Bosah                                                                            Secretary                                                                       07033775517

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