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NLC seeks revitalisation of power sector

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Wabba

Wabba

• Laments $40b wastage in 16 years

THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has described as “tragic” the federal government investment of over $40billion in the power sector in the past 16 years with little or nothing to show for it. According to NLC, the only proof Nigeria has to show for the investment are “megawatts of darkness and gigabytes of excuses”.

NLC President, Wahab Wabba, in his address to workers during the May Day celebration in Abuja claimed that current power generation in Nigeria “hovers around 3000 megawatts”.

He, however, explained that compared to the investment in Nigeria, “the $25 billion Three Gorges Dam in China generates more than 22,000MW of electricity”.

Wabba argued that the excuse of inadequate gas for the power stations is already time worn, “The volume of gas that has been flared since 1956 when commercial quantities of crude oil and natural gas were discovered in the oil producing communities of Niger Delta, with all of its environmental and climatic consequences, is enough proof that blaming gas supply for our perennial national darkness is what it is – mere excuses” He said:

“The privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) is said to be one of Nigeria’s success stories and is predicated on greater efficiency and more jobs for our members.

However, the unbundling of PHCN has led to more darkness and criminal tariffs for consumers. “The successor- companies seem to be more interested in rent-collecting than rendering basic service.

“Recently, the Electricity Regulatory Commission found it necessary to review downward the tariffs for industrial consumers but not residential consumers. We believe what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

“The recent directive by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission allowing DISCOS to fix their charges, is particularly worrisome.  To allow monopolies such freedom is to open up consumers to unfettered exploitation.

Generally, we believe there has to be a verifiable and reasonable framework for electricity pricing. Nigerians are groaning under unjustifiable bills. This must stop”, Wabba added.

He explained that regular power supply will certainly unlock the potentials in the economy. According to him, the Nigeria Labour Congress would hold the Buhari-led government to account based on the promises to Nigerians generally and to the working class people in particular. Wabba also challenged the incoming government to revive the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, adding that the edifice was conceived to be the cornerstone of industrialisation. He said:

“Unfortunately, our political class have refused to accept the simple truth that no country can truly industrialise without any iron and steel industry. The fate of Aladja, Osogbo, Jos and Katsina steel rolling mills post privatisation is too grim to recall”.

Wabba, who spoke on sundry issues related to the economy, said the fall in the price of crude oil in the international market, the alleged gross mismanagement of our national resources by the political class and their cronies in the private sector and the failure of successive Nigerian governments to build critical infrastructure that can support the diversification of the national economy have all contributed to the construction of our current narrative of economic woes.

He said: “The volatility of the global economy with particular respect to the downward spiral in the price of oil is no doubt having a huge impact on the Nigerian economy.

There is currently a weakening of the capital market; External reserves have been further depleted resulting in a very weak naira. “This situation has unfortunately been exacerbated by decades of successive era of corruption and mismanagement of resources, where workers and their families have been the worse victims.

This explains partly the anxiety by which Nigerians actively participated in the recent elections. It is therefore our hope that this new administration will set in motion the process of a new Nigeria that leads to a brighter future.

“We however, need to learn lessons from the current experience and brace up to being sincere and true to our conscience. “For instance, we wonder why the oil sector which accounts for less than 15% of GDP and less than 7% of employment contributes 70% of government revenue while non-oil activities that contribute more than 85% of GDP and more than 80% of employment contribute only 30% of government revenue?

“As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the largest in Africa, it is an irony that Nigeria has the largest size of the population of the poor as well as one of largest pools of the unemployed in the world today.

Indeed, the World Bank’s recent assessment of Nigeria as one of the countries with the least successful stories in the fight against poverty in spite of the billions of naira spent through the Millennium Development Goals and other poverty eradication programmes, is a tragedy of a succession of bad governance in more than four decades.

“While we believe that Nigeria will certainly require an economic reform to address the current fiscal and structural challenges worsened by low oil price and subsequently weak capital inflows, we are more convinced that the way to go is certainly not in cutting jobs, wages and salaries of workers, nor in any disguise making workers the sacrificial lambs of economic mismanagement.

“The primary and most important action is to block all avenues of leakages in budget inflows and expenditure.  “Closely related to this, is the need to reduce the cost of governance especially maintenance of a large retinue of staff and political ‘hangers on’.

This should be complimented by revenue reforms in such way that space required for growth and stability is enhanced and protected. “To this end, government needs to be open and transparent as well as accountable.

“We are of the firm opinion that this action will generate the immediate short to medium term resources required to get the new administration started”, Wabba added.


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