Sunday, April 17, 2016

Nigeria Labor Congress, Tarry Awhile Over Strike Plan
By Daily Trust
Apr 15 2016 5:00AM

Photo: NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba

Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said last week that it will organise a one-day warning strike to protest against the state of the nation, especially the recent 45 percent increase in electricity tariff without commensurate improvement in supply by the power distribution companies (Discos). NLC President Comrade Ayuba Wabba announced this at the NLC’s Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting in Abuja. He said the planned strike was in response to prevailing economic hardship in the country. Wabba did not set a date for the nationwide lockout but he said Nigerians are feeling the heat and harsh realities of the economic crisis bedeviling the country.

Wabba described the hike in electricity tariff as “illegal, unfair, unjustifiable and a further exploitation of the already exploited Nigerians.” He said due process under section 76 of the Power Sector Reform Act (2005) was not followed by the Discos before the increment was made. According to him, most consumers have not been metered in accordance with the signed Privatisation Memoranda of November 21, 2013, which stipulates that within 18 months gestation period all consumers were to be metered. He said the privatisation of the power sector was done in bad faith and that it has become obvious that the new investors lack the capacity to improve electricity generation and supply in the country.

Add to this situation the crippling fuel crisis that has all but hobbled the nation’s economy and subjected Nigerians from all walks of life to untold hardship for months running with no end in sight.

This is in spite of the repeated assurances to the contrary by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu. It is an understatement to say that Nigerians have been passing through grueling times in recent months, contrary to widespread expectations that things will improve after President Buhari took over the mantle of leadership nearly one year ago. Like the NLC, many Nigerians are getting impatient and disillusioned that the much expected change is taking too long to materialise.

There is an air of confusion in the country and fear is rife that the drivers of the economy are not moving the nation in the right direction. Today, discussion among Nigerians revolves around three main issues - fuel scarcity, epileptic power supply and high exchange rate of the naira to the dollar.

But we urge Nigerians not to lose hope and continue to have faith that with the passage of the 2016 federal budget, which we expect the president to sign into law sooner than later, positive things should start happening in the economy and the citizenry will have a new lease of life, going by what top government officials have been tell us.

However, the federal government needs to articulate and fast-track its development blueprint and stop blaming the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former President Goodluck Jonathan for the nation’s woes. It should do the needful to end fuels queues and stabilise power supply for Nigeria to move forward. The blame game does nobody, especially President Buhari, no good and cannot be a substitute for proper explanation of what exactly is happening to the economy.

Labour has a cogent reason to call a nationwide strike but the times are inauspicious. We therefore call on the NLC and Nigerians generally to exercise some restraint because a strike at this time could be hijacked by mischievous elements to unleash mayhem on innocent people. Let us not forget in a hurry the bloodletting that followed the January 2012 anti-fuel price hike strike which claimed many lives. The NLC should also be mindful of the huge cost of strikes on the economy. For instance, Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola said last week that the power sector alone lost N7.7 billion to labour lockouts between April 2014 and March 2016. The effect on other sectors of the economy is better imagined.


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