Tariff hike: Falana backs picketing of NERC, DISCO offices


Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, on Sunday threw his weight behind the planned picketing of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission headquarters and offices of the Electricity Distribution Companies across the country on Monday over the hike in electricity tariff.

The Organised labour under the auspices of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, had a few days ago issued NERC a May 12 deadline to reverse the hike in electricity tariff to N65/kwh or risk having its commission and DISCO offices nationwide picketed.

To show they meant business, the unionists directed its state branches and affiliates in a warning letter jointly signed by NLC President, Joe Ajaero and his TUC counterpart, Festus Osifo, to mobilise their members in readiness for the picketing if the Federal Government and NERC fail to heed their warning.

Reacting to the development, Falana argued that the proposed action is justified and is equally provided for in Nigeria’s Labour Act.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria endorsed the planned picketing when he was featured as a guest on a live television programme on Sunday.

According to him, NERC failed to follow due process and did not engage the stakeholders before taking such an unpopular decision.

He said, “There is provision for picketing under the Labour Act in Nigeria and that is what the Labour centres will begin tomorrow. They are going to picket the headquarters of NERC and offices of the DISCOs to register their protest against the illegal increase in electricity tariff.

“This is because the Nigeria Electricity Regulation Commission did not follow due process and didn’t conduct a public hearing as required by the Electricity Act 2023. I hope the NERC will engage and discuss with the Labour movement and see what can be done to reverse the hike.

“Again, the increase was anchored on the assumption that there will be regular electricity supply for at least 20 hours. But that has not been the case. If DISCO cannot meet the electricity supply, people have no right to pay the increased tariff.”

Continuing, the senior lawyer raised a concern that it would be unfair and insensitive of any government to supply darkness and expect its citizens to pay for electricity tariffs.

He also frowned at the development, saying it is becoming obvious that privatisation has failed ‘woefully’ in Nigeria.

“By virtue of Section 116 of the Electricity Act 2023, you can only justify a hike in tariff if you supply the electricity. There must be evidence that there is an improvement in electricity supply. But if Nigerians have to power their offices or business premises with generators in the face of epileptic electricity supply, it is difficult to justify.

“Again when they talk about unbundling, to the best of my knowledge, the majority of the DISCOs have been acquired by the government because of their toxic loans. As of the time, the DISCOs were distributed and sold in 2013. That sector has become self-sufficient. The government was no longer subsidizing the sector.

“So we must find out what happened between then and now. If the government is thinking of unbundling again, it must sit down with the workers and engage in consultation in the country. This is because privatisation has failed woefully in Nigeria. I think the Senate has once called on the government to take back all the DISCOs and take firm control.

“We cannot increase tariffs when the majority of our people are supplied with darkness. I am not even talking of those in Band B, C and D. We are only talking of Band A for now and there is no basis for such discrimination.”