- As Workers plan to shut down economy on Monday, over electricity tariff hike
Information Technology (IT) guru, Valentina Mintah has applauded Nigeria Customs Service ((NCS), particularly its visionary forage into IT, noting that its computerization investment is today helping the country save US $25m, monthly.
Ghanaian born Mintah made the observation in Ghana, during the inauguration of the African Maritime Journalist Association (AMJA), last weekend, praising the nation’s pioneering efforts, from which her country Ghana is also, currently prospering.
“In Nigeria, the will at the operational level, from Customs and other individuals was excellent” she observed, adding that the Pre-Arrival Assessments Report (PAAR) a foremost tool of cargo facilitation project succeeded immensely as a result of the stakeholders’ massive support, despite a not so adequate “political will”
“We did not have the political will from the top. The lack of political will from the top tend to breed undesirable elements who opposed the single window concept.
“At a point, there was some sabotage. It was either people did not understand the concept or deliberately kicked against it. At the institutional level, it was well accepted. But after the project, Nigeria became a point of reference at the World Customs Organisation (WCO).
“The WCO asked other Customs administration to emulate Nigeria. That was really a high point for us back then. In two years, revenue collection went up by 20 percent. Government saved $25 million a month from fees that were hitherto being paid to the Destination Inspection (DI) companies who were handling the Risk Assessment Report for Customs”, Mintah explained further.
In the meantime, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Thursday announced its resolve to shut down the economy on Monday in protest against the 45 per cent increase in electricity tariff.
A statement signed by President, Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayaba Wabba, and made available electronically in Abuja yesterday, stated that the union, in conjunction with Trade Union Congress, TUC, civil society organisations and electricity consumers decided to embark on the mass protest because all attempts to make government toe the line of acceptable standard failed.
He warned that the increment would not only worsen the living conditions of Nigerians, who are already grappling with the pains of the present economic situation, but would also help to aggravate restiveness in the country.
Wabba described the implementation of the tariff as an act of lawlessness given the fact that there was a subsisting court order against it.
While warning that Nigerians would reject being made to pay for the inefficiency in the system, Wabba said it was unfortunate that despite the whopping N18.26bn invested into the sector at the twilight of the past administration, there was nothing on ground to justify the spending.
“A privatised sector that continues to parasite on government with insignificant benefit to Nigerians is at best a leech on our economy and should be interrogated,” he added.
According to the NLC boss, during the protest, which will be carried out in all the 36 states, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, all DISCOs offices will be picketed. In order to ensure a hitch-free protest, Comrade Wabba, explained that union members had been sufficiently mobilised nationwide.
He noted that the Abuja rally would start 8 a.m. at Labour House, Central Business District, from where it would move to the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, head office. According to him, areas to be visited would also include the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company and National Assembly.
The NLC boss said: “This protest rally has become necessary after all effort to make NERC shelve the idea of increase failed. Indeed, rather than see reason with Nigerians, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing has been advancing spurious argument in justification.
“The reasons for this protest are obvious and include the following: The due process in the extant laws for such increment was not followed in consonance with section 76 of the Power Sector Reform Act, 20. There has been no significant improvement in service delivery.
“Moreover, the fact is that most consumers are not metered in accordance with the signed privatisation Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, of November 1, 2013, which stipulates that within 18 months gestation period, all consumers are to be metered.
“There is a subsisting court order dated 28th May, 2015 by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, in the case of Toluwani Yemi-Adebiyi versus NERC & Orders, that there shall be no further increment until the determination of the substantive suit.” Before the recourse to the plan protest, Wabba explained that Labour had issued a communiqué on December 22, 2015 rejecting the tariff hike and demanding that pre-paid metres be made available free to all consumers.
Meanwhile, TUC in a separate statement in Abuja, condemned the justification for the tariff increase by the Minister of Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
The statement, which was signed by TUC President, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, described Fashola’s argument to the effect that an Act of the National Assembly actually empowers the commission, as lame, simplistic and misleading.
“Any Act that preys on the masses that it is supposed to protect negates public policy. Any Act that compels the citizens to pay for services not delivered is not only flawed and undemocratic, but is ultra vires the power of the Assembly to make laws for the good of the country, and should not enjoy any applicability.
“Any Act that further impoverishes the downtrodden and lowly is evil and should be discountenanced.
“We lend our voice again to advocate the need for the minister and NERC to stop trying to enforce the obnoxious Act,” TUC maintained
Additional report from The Citizen