Nigerians are not presently,not a happy people. There are several reasons for their unhappiness. But at this particular point in time, the reason for their present unhappy state, is the decision of the electricity distribution companies to increase electricity tariffs by 45%, in spite of the very poor state of electricity supply in the country. In this interview with Federationews2day, Chairman of the Non Academic Staff Union(NASU)Oyo state chapter, Comrade Fatoki Olusola-Cole, describes the action of the as unfair,insensitive and wicked. Excerpts :
What is your reaction to the recent increase in electricity tariffs by the distribution companies ?
This issue is very important to every sector of the economy in Nigeria and to every individual in Nigeria, so to say, because there is nobody that is left out, once you talk about electricity supply. Electricity is very important to the development of the economy of any country. And once they are talking about electricity generation, Government was saddled with that responsibility until the time the sector was privatized. Before the privatization, the promise government was making then, was that there would be improvement, government cannot do it alone, government needs private people to come in and run it, so that we would have stable generation of power. but this promise has not been realized since then, in fact it has become worse. When the private sector took over, the problem persisted and got worse, than it was. And we began to worry about the problem. And they came out to tell us, that it was because they were not charging enough tariff to maintain the equipment, we are not paying enough to maintain the distribution. We begin to wonder, why should these people begin to say this, after they have taken over.,Did they not know the problems of the power sector before they took over ? And that means that maybe they were not aware of the problems, and they were not prepared for it. They just went in, took over and now realized that the problems are enormous. And coming back to what the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Raji Fashola said, I think it is think that it is unfortunate that the kind of government that we are expecting to be fair and just to the masses, to the people of Nigeria, is trying to impose this thing on the country. Why should you sat that it is irreversible ? In the first place what necessitated the increase ? Did you really come out to tell the public ? That is the problem they are having.there. What efforts have you made to get the understanding of the Nigerian people ? And for them to know that what we need is increase in tariffs. There is no way that 90% of Nigerians would be convinced that it is because of the low tariffs that people are paying makes power to be irregular. They have been increasing these tariffs, I think it is every year, I know that in 2012, in 2013 they increased it, even in 2014 it was increased it, giving us the same excuse, that before power could be stable, they have to increase the tariffs. And after increasing the tariffs, there is no visible change. And now, what is the assurance, what is the confidence that we have a vision that as it is increased that we would have a stable power supply ? And I think it is very unfair and Fashola is nor really taking the poor condition of the masses, the poor condition that the masses are, in this counrty into consideration, before accepting 45% increase from the power generation companies. I don’t think it is fair. It is a burden, another burden imposed on the masses. It is not only the rich people that electricity will be available to, it is not only the big companies, these small people that are having shops on their streets, like the barbers, hairdressers, welders and so on, this will also apply to them. Let us see what 45% will be in terms of what they would be paying as electricity costs, which means, they are going to be paying about 50% additional to what they were paying before, it is enormous, it is a great burden. If Fashola does not realize it, we are making it known to him, that he is not considering the plight of the masses at all. And for the fact that the All Progressives Congress(APC) says it is a party for the masses, what Fashola has done negates what the APC claims to represent. And in fact I begin to wonder what kind of government we have now, if you are saying that you are protecting the interests of the masses, is this the way to protect the interest of the masses ? Considering what everybody is passing through in the country today, it is unfair and I would say it is very wicked of this government not to have taken into consideration the plight of the masses, the less privileged. So we are totally against it, the masses are against it and my members are against it.