By Steve Oni, Ilorin
Former Vice President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Issa Aremu, has decried the incessant arbitrary hike in electricity tariff by the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in the country, describing it as reprehensible and unjustified in view of the persistent blackout nationwide and failure of the electricity distributors to fix the energy problem.
The Labour Icon, who was fielding questions from journalists in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital, over the weekend, on the sideline of the event commemorating his 60th birthday, said the federal government has a responsibility to regulate the prices of electricity consumed in a way that would not inflict unnecessary pain and burden on the citizenry, rather than leaving it to the whims and caprices of the regulatory agency.
Recall that the latest controversial 50 percent hike in electricity tariff had elicited varied reactions from many Nigerians who condemned the decision, especially at a time the citizenry are still reeling from the excruciating economic pains inflicted by COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession the country is currently going through.
Comrade Aremu was miffed that Nigerians have been subjected to the whims and caprices of the Electricity Generation Companies (GENCOs) and Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) which issue exorbitant monthly bills to their customers that are not commensurate with the electricity they supply them.
Aremu, a former governorship candidate of Labour Party in Kwara State during the 2019 elections, called on the Minister of Power to rein in the nation’s electricity regulatory agency and cease from acting as the mouthpiece of GENCOs and DISCOs.
He said it was not within the purview of the organised labour to regulate the affairs of stakeholders in the electricity sector, hence the need for government action.
He said: “If you ask me now, many of the cabinet members (Ministers) are not on duty. Who will control National Electricity Regulatory Agency? It is Minister of Power. He should rein in the Regulatory Agency. It is not part of labour’s primary agenda. Our job (as organised labour) is that when you increase the price of anything, we ask for more wage.
“Government should be able to control the price of energy, and President Muhammadu Buhari must talk to them (the regulatory agency). He must learn how to be presidential. He should reward performance and sanction poor performance; such measures would compel those entrusted with positions of authority to sit up and be up and doing.”
The NLC NEC member also implored the President to adopt a bipartisan approach and an inclusive governance to solve the energy and security crises ravaging the country.
On ASUU strike, Comrade Aremu said: “Strike that has lasted for nine months, I think it is an insurgency, ASUU should realise that the universities are their own, not Buhari’s, and if they realise that, they will not close universities for that long.” He, therefore, urged both the federal government and ASUU to embrace dialogue and shift grounds to resolve whatever impasse in the interest of the students and the nation.
In commemoration of his diamond age, Aremu had earlier engaged members of the state physically challenged group in table tennis game at the state Stadium Complex, Ilorin.