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Nigerian unions rally against drastic electricity tariff hikes

Protesters picketed utility offices in major cities, demanding action against price hikes amid a national cost-of-living crisis

Protests led by Nigeria’s labor unions erupted on Monday over an unprecedented increase in electricity tariffs, with demonstrators blocking the entrances to the offices of the national electricity regulator and several power companies.

After the removal of state subsidies, the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) issued a two-week ultimatum to the government demanding the reversal of recent tariff hikes. 

The unions are pushing for the restoration of previous electricity rates, an end to the categorization of consumers into bands they consider unfair, and a return to proper corporate governance in the sector. These demands come as the Nigerian government, under President Bola Tinubu, implements austerity measures amid economic challenges such as falling investment and widespread oil theft.

The authorities have stated that electricity rates for some consumers more than doubled in April, while the government is set to save at least $788 million in subsidies this year. These measures, including the controversial elimination of fuel subsidies, pushed inflation to nearly 30% last month, the highest rate in nearly 30 years, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

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Protestors with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) gather at the National Assembly while holding placards during a protest against the recent raise in cost of living/economic hardship across the country in Abuja on February 27, 2024.
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On April 3, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) increased electricity tariffs from 66 naira ($0.045) per kWh to 225 naira ($0.15) for approximately 15% of the 12 million customers on the grid who are guaranteed up to 20 hours of power each month. This hike sparked widespread discontent across the nation as power companies were unable to fulfill the promised service hours, and had to reduce power to other consumers to accommodate their higher-paying customers. Last week, NERC adjusted the tariffs back to 206.8 naira ($0.14) per kWh, citing a marginal appreciation of the naira against the dollar.

The protests underscore growing discontent among Nigerians who are grappling with economic instability and the rising cost of living, Joe Ajaero, president of the NLC, told reporters in Abuja, adding that the country cannot continue to increase electricity rates.

May 14, 2024 at 04:20PM

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