A programme on Channels TV recently highlighted the awfully negative effect of vandalisation of gas pipelines, nationwide, on the poor state of electricity generation and distribution in Nigeria. While security agencies bosses interviewed on Channels insisted that they were doing their best to protect Nigeria’s vital power assets they admitted that they faced an uphill task in guaranteeing the security and functionality of these very important pipelines. Experts on the TV programme were at pains to point out that the pipelines carried gas needed to generate electricity for transmission and distribution to Nigerian electricity consumers and this would just be impossible in the face of such successful and persistent vandalization bordering on economic sabotage with impunity.
Given such a bad situation on generation of power which is bound to affect its transmission and subsequent delivery, one is really taken aback by the insistence of a section of the power industry especially the trade unions to vilify the distribution companies involved in electricity delivery for poor electricity supply and going on to accuse them of exploitation of the Nigerian masses for the new tariffs approved for them sometime ago. Undoubtedly the Labour Unions influenced the Senate in stopping the new tariffs which has led to the regulator of the electricity industry, the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission, NERC, taking the Senate to Court. With the Unions hailing the Senate with which it never sees eye to eye on anything as quite patriotic in illegally stopping the tariff approved legitimately by the body empowered to do so legally in Nigeria .
The Channels programme has been an eye opener to many Nigerians who smelt a rat in the ever ready and incessant castigation of the distribution companies called DISCOs. From experience on privatization matters we thought it was just a case of sour grapes stemming from resentment of the new disco owners because of the huge capital they had put into the business. We thought that the unions wanted to show the new owners of the DISCOs that unions have to be recognized as before when the distribution was a public sector affair even though the unions know fully well the owners of discos were hard nosed Nigerian businessmen who had put their huge investment into the power sector because they believe in the Nigerian economy.
No one expected the labour unions, in full knowledge of the problem of vandalisation nationwide to be leading the fight to call the dog a bad name in order to hang it in the way and manner they have championed the cause of vilifying the discos for poor electricity supply in the face of rampant vandalisation of pipe lines expected to be used to generate electricity in the first instance. To Nigerians who watched that Channels programme the unions have been misleading the Nigerian public in painting the DISCOs as power sharks exploiting Nigerians in the supply of electricity when indeed it is fellow Nigerians vandalizing the gas pipelines nationwide who should be held responsible for a sheer act of sabotage or outright hostility and felony or even high treason.
As patriotic and much respected public institutions in the labour market, the union leaders are enlightened enough to know that without regular electricity Nigeria can never make it in terms of economic development. Without economic development the fate of the Nigerian worker is to suffer and struggle to live always on subsistence level. Yet the objective of trade unions is to promote the progress and economic welfare of the Nigerian worker. The unions will do this better if they join hands with the security agencies in stopping those vandalizing our pipelines and making the generation of electricity an uphill if not impossible task.
They can mobilise their millions of workers positively in this regard so that they can keep their jobs in the dwindling numbers of industries and factories with spiraling fixed and running costs of running their generators and standby generators to produce goods and services to keep our economy running. If the gencos and discos work well the electricity tariffs will be more beneficial to workers and the economy and such success will rub off on the trade unions which will be seen as champion of the masses.
Which will be a more honest and commendable way to promote the fortune of the Nigerian worker far more productive and patriotic than the present deceit of blaming discos for poor electricity supply when we all know that vandalisation of our gas pipelines by fellow Nigerians is the real culprit.
Koyejo, a public affairs analyst, writes from Bauchi