By Emeka Nwokocha
In a sustained effort to compel the Nigerian government to reverse the hike in electricity tariff and price of petrol, Civil Rights Groups, under the umbrella of the Civil Society Organisation in Delta State, have conveyed a strong message to President Muhammadu Buhari, saying his policies would further impoverish and make life unbearable for Nigerians.
The leaders of the Civil Right Groups, who mustered at the DSC roundabout, Effurun, Uvwie local government area of Delta State, on Thursday 28 September 2020, relayed the message to the President at a press briefing, urging him to jettison the anti-people policy in the interest of hapless Nigerians.
Stating the worries of the CSOs, Comrade Isreal Joe, lamented the increase in electricity tariff and price of petrol, saying “it is a repressive policy that would put the wellbeing of the Nigerian people in jeopardy.” He noted that in the current times, Nigerians have endured untold hardship occasioned by the advent of the novel Covid-19 pandemic. A development he said called for liberal government policies to lessen the suffering of the people, but not otherwise.
He said, “we vehemently reject the increase in electricity tariff and price of petrol, and therefore, call on the President Buhari led APC government to reverse the prices of the commodities without wasting time.” Continuing, Comr. Isreal, expressed disappointment at the subservient role of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), saying that the suspension of the widely publicized nationwide strike by the leaders of the unions was a betrayal of the trust Nigerians have in them.
Speaking, Barr. Omes Ogedegbe, Director General, Conference for Actualization of Human Rights, noted that Nigerians hoped that the coming of the APC led government in 2015 with its trumpeted mantra of change would mitigate their suffering, but they have come to realize that the government has consistently come up with policies that are not implementable to the benefit of the poor Nigerians.
He said, “It is sad to note that the purported deregulation policy of the President Buhari’s government over the years is nothing but a scam. They were giving us the impression that there was deregulation, but in true sense, there was no deregulation.
“On the same note, the increase of electricity tariff is anti-people. Why would the government be talking about increase in electricity tariff when the populace doesn’t have electricity? You are increasing tariff when there is darkness all over the country. The truth is, Nigerians are beginning to feel the absence of government.”
Continuing, Ogedegbe, said that the obnoxious policies of the government of the day which further compound the agony of Nigerians, impelled the CSOs to be the voice of the voiceless and interrogate the government, in a bid to improving the wellbeing of the citizens.
He reiterated, “we are saying no to any policies or laws that intend to further impoverish our people. In the same vein, we are saying that the National Water Resources bill pending before the National Assembly is the most satanic, barbaric, inconsistent and an inconsequential bill that will ever exist in our legal history. You cannot imagine a law that makes provision to the effect that for you to enjoy water, it must be subjected to the approval of a Director General of the agency that will be created to that effect. That means, for our aged people in the village to enjoy their river and stream, it must be subject to approval by a Director General. And most surprising is that to “sink” a borehole in your property, it will also be subjected to approval of the director general of the agency. As a lawyer, I have read through the bill, and noted several offending sections in it. You cannot imagine a law that vested too much power on the Director General of an agency. The most worrisome is that the powers of the Director General are not specifically mentioned. Thus, the Director General has a wide discretion to determine what goes on in the agency. Meaning, if he doesn’t like your face, you will not be entitled to have water in your premises, just as he has the right to issue licenses and revoke same. Whether you like it or not, when that law comes to be, it will be an act that legalizes hardship and austerity in our society.”
Continuing, Ogedegbe, described the suspension of the nationwide strike as unfortunate. “It is quite unfortunate that we don’t have a functional Nigeria Labour Congress. We want to reaffirm that the Nigerian populace rejects the position of the NLC. We are not in alliance with the NLC,” he stated, even as he called on Nigerians to celebrate the Independence by wearing ‘sack’ clothes. He said, “we are mourning on October 1; Nigerians should put on black because there is nothing to celebrate in October 1.”
In the same vein, the trio of Comr. Kelvin Ejumudo of Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR); Comr. Kelly Efemena Umukoro, President of Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, Youth Wing Worldwide; and Comr. Ibebe Rufus Akpobome, Director General Youth Emancipation Movement of Africa, noted that the Nigerian populace are going through worsening hardship never experienced in the history of Nigeria.
“To say the least, it is an aberration to see Nigerians living in abject poverty and dehumanizing condition, still the government does not show concern. Why would the poor Nigerians be compelled to pay exorbitant electricity tariff in a country that has no electricity and most businesses run on generator? Still the government goes ahead to increase the price of petrol to further worsen the hardship in the polity. It simply tells the height of insensitivity of the government to the plight of the poor masses,” they lamented.
Continuing, they said, “following the ravaging effect of the Covid-19 pandemic across the globe, responsible governments are rolling out policies to ameliorate the suffering of their citizens through provision of palliatives and reduction in utility bills, including other subsidies their citizens currently enjoy. Regrettably, in Nigeria, the government has not shown any iota of concern to the hardship Nigerians contend with daily. To the chagrin of Nigerians, the government is taking another dangerous step to deprive the Nigerian people access to water through the coercive National Water Resources Bill. This is the highest show of disservice to the Nigerian populace.
Also speaking, Comr. Counselor Dennis Agori, Director General, African Global Youths Foundation, called on Nigerians to rise up to the occasion and compel the government to do the right thing.
“I think our tolerance level in Nigeria is an issue of huge concern. We are so docile to the point that we don’t see the need to interrogate repressive government policies. Everybody is so nonchalant towards government policies that jeopardize their future. It is common place for Nigerians to always pose indifference towards issues of national concern, saying, “e no concern me.” I think this is the time to talk to ourselves in order to say no to repressive government policies whenever they are being hatched. Nigerian citizens need to know that power belongs to the people, they own the government. Recall that we said no to RUGA, and that policy never saw the light of day. Now we are saying no to the National Water Resources Bill. We have to come out to checkmate the excesses of the government. I call on Nigerians to come join this coalition for a better Nigeria.”