There is palpable fear in the air because within a month of the petroleum subsidy removal pronounced by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the government is at it again; this time, to jack up electricity tariffs by 40 per cent. The subsidy removal was welcomed by some Nigerians after many years of heated debate, even with the attendant problems, coupled with fraudulent practices in the system. However, the fact that the government failed to consult widely and put palliatives in place to cushion the impact, unfortunately was a major snag that would continue to generate discourse, owing to the untold hardship the people are going through at present.
The Power Distribution Companies recently announced hike in electricity tariff, billed to commence on July 1, 2023. Since the declaration was made by the Discos, Nigerians have become jittery and apprehensive, owing to the unrestrained hike in the prices of goods and services, even when salaries are not increased; coupled with the dwindling rate of the naira and high cost of living, well above the reach of the common man. Notices from the various Power Distribution Companies, Discos stated that the electricity tariff would be raised by about 30 to 40 percent for selected categories of consumers beginning from July. The question therefore is; how can the people breathe, and also understand that the government is working for their interest? How would the sufferings of the people be alleviated? Many have contended that it’s too early in the day to judge the present government, but it is also important to point out that the way the government started would largely determine how it would end, ultimately.
The president had said he shares the pains of Nigerians. How can that be when people cannot afford to feed their families or transport themselves from one place to another when nothing is being done by the authorities to ameliorate the sufferings of the people? The primary function of every government is to ensure that policies are formulated with the aim of improving the general wellbeing of the people. Today, Nigeria is reputed as a country where about 130 million people are said to be multi dimensionally poor. Therefore, the government should not think that taxing the citizens is the only business in governance and way out of the malaise. Whereas those who stole our common patrimony, unfortunately are allowed to continue to feed fat on the taxes and levies paid by the poor masses in the society. It is cheering that the majority of Nigerians completely aligned with the government as soon as subsidy was removed, even though same people who now saw reasons for petroleum subsidy removal were those that opposed it in the past.
However, increase of electricity tariff should not be in quick succession after the fuel subsidy removal, if at all the government meant well for the people, especially when almost all can feel the hunger in the land. The economy of the country should be revived first and foremost, and poverty reduced drastically. That should be the primary focus of the new government since every government should be concerned essentially about the welfare of the people that voted them into office, rather than burden them with excessive and multiple taxes. Every effort by the government to revive the ailing economy which this regime promised it would do should be supported, but not over taxing the poor citizens who already bear the brunt of the injuries inflicted on them by some corrupt politicians.
The increase in electricity tariff for now is unthinkable given the hardship that is taking its toll on the people. We ask for time extension, even as the Discos have temporarily suspended the idea, awaiting the approval of the regulatory authority, Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission, NERC.