ELECTRICITY TARIFF INCREMENT: PLACING THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE

meter“Round pegs in round holes” aptly describes some of, if not all of the ministerial appointments done by President Muhammadu Buhari when he released the list of his nominees to the public.

Having ridden on the bandwagon of “change” mantra to Aso Rock in 2015, the Ex General obliged to deliver the “change goodies” that has swelled the optimism and euphoria of the masses, bid his time to pick his team of “wise men” that would implement his programs and policies for the country.

A product of that long wait that got the whole citizenry excited is the Minister for power, Babatunde Raji Fashola who also superintends over two important ministries; works and housing respectively.

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Why did the former governor of Lagos State get so much rave reviews following his tripartite appointment? Guess his astounding, though not flawless performance as the Chief Executive Officer of the Country’s economic engine-room, Lagos state was still fresh in the minds of Nigerians. Hence, this explains why his appointment to key sectors of the economy generated not only optimism but excitement between supporters and critics of the new government.

With the pomp that accompanied the wave of optimism by Nigerians gradually fading off as untold economic hardship facing the country serves them a “reality Check”, the lopsided decision of the Minister for power and the NERDC-the country’s electricity regulatory body-to increase electricity tariffs by 45% would have left them not only numb and speechless but also pondering if this was the “Change” they voted for.

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Nigerians are yearning for relief not further excruciating pains from a government that promised much but has only offered little. The decision of the minister for power to increase electricity tariffs lays credence to this.

Nigeria has overtaken South Africa as the largest economy on the continent but yet lags behind the rainbow nation in terms of power generation and distribution.

Madiba’s country boasts of 27 operational plants that generate 40 % of total power generated and consumed on the continent, making it one of the ten largest power utilities in the world yet, it remains insatiable because of her robust economy. South Africa’s power output dwarfs that of her rival and acclaimed giant of Africa. A huge gap that the minister should consider bridging as the country strives to resuscitate her torpid economy in order to actualize her full potentials as the new “economic juggernaut” on the continent.

Tackling the rot in the sector should be pivotal for the Buhari led government.

Having made headlines for frustrating businesses and manufacturing companies to either shut down operations or relocating to neighboring Ghana, repositioning the power sector to breathing life into an already redundant or preferably, comatose manufacturing sector should be priority for a government that warmed its way into the hearts of Nigerians on the promise of “Change”.

Infrastructural decay to embezzlement of funds and ineffectiveness on the part of the new generating companies (Gencos) and distribution companies (Discos) that benefited from the privatization process that removed the government’s control from the sector deserves attention than the new tariffs the minister and the electricity regulatory body (NERDC) want to force down the throats of the masses.

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Guess the minister for power has forgotten that Nigeria is not Lagos- a state where he ruled excellently  as Governor for two terms but, at the same time got his government branded as an elitist one  because of some of its anti-people policies- A damning profile that still trails him after his decision to hike the power tariffs.

Still trying to come to terms with the government’s decision to ban the peoples’ generator, popularly known as “I better pass my neighbor”, the announcement of a new electricity price regime by the minister was enough to stir public anger and outrage towards the government.

The increment met stiff resistance and condemnation from not only the masses but the Labour movements of NLC and TUC and economic group, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN). With the Labour movements embarking on massive protests alongside MAN’s threats to shut the economy down, Nigeria’s upper legislative arm, the Senate had to weigh in on the crisis.

The intervention of the senate was timely and commendable.

The legislators ruled over the proposal, demanding a halt in its implementation until all the concerns of the agitators (TUC, NLC and MAN) including the masses were addressed.

They also went further to condemn the increment claiming it was anti-people and further shows the government as insensitive to the sufferings of the people.

Yes! The action of the minister for power reflects this view.

Ordinary Nigerians are growling under the economic storm currently ravaging the landscape. And instead of providing refuge for them in these hard times, Babatunde Raji Fashola decided to make the masses pay for the ineffectiveness and ineptitude of the government.

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His decision to hike electricity tariffs can simply be described as “placing the cart before the horse”.  Taking care of all the baggage strewn around in the power sector and going on to increase power generation from its meager 1,590 watts and stabilizing it would have been a credible alibi for tariff hike.

But, neglecting the core issues affecting generation, distribution and stability in the sector for new tariff policy would only incur the wrath of the suffering masses and further cast doubts on the credibility and ability of the APC government to effect the much desired “change” they crave for.

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The Author

Solape Solarin

Solape Solarin is a sports Journalist who writes for one of Nigeria's prestigious paper. He is a guest blogger and contributor on Nigerian Infopedia. He has written a lot of articles to his credit.

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