The Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, has accepted that there is a ``gross'' deficit in the electricity tariff in the country but promised that the reform in the sector would take care of it.
The minister said this in Abuja on Thursday at a meeting with the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the NLC.
Nnaji appealed to Nigerians to give the Federal Government the chance to correct the anomalies through the proposed reform of the sector.
``We know there are gross deficits but just give us a chance and you will see power grow in the country.
``Starting from June, you will see growth in power and it will go on and on and will never go back again.’’
He added that power plants would soon be inaugurated in some designated locations that would boost electricity output in the nation.
Nnaji said that the sector reform was to protect consumers from arbitrary billing system, particularly the urban poor and the rural dwellers who were made to pay for what they did not consume.
The minister explained that there was a trust deficit from the people concerning the reform but urged Nigerians to trust government this time around.
``It is true, there is trust deficit and we in government must acknowledge this and this is why people don’t believe it.’’
He said that the government had met the target on electricity in many places but missed it in some areas.
The minister said that the government was ready to work again to meet all the targets on electricity, adding that there was no similarity between fuel subsidy removal and tariff adjustment.
``I guarantee you that it is the opposite of fuel subsidy; you are not having increase in tariff but tariff adjustment.
``You can be sure that for urban poor and rural dwellers, they will have reduction in what they pay based on this.
``The president believes that the urban poor and rural dwellers of this country should not have an estimated bill across the nation; instead, they should be made to pay for what they have consumed.''
Earlier, TUC President Peter Esele said that the union was worried that there was no explanation on why some targets were not met in the past.
``Before, government said power generation will be increased by 4,000 megawatts by December but now, we no longer hear that and we have not been told why that was not achieved.
``We have not also been told what happened to the huge expenditure on that sector so that we understand their challenges and why it was not met.’’
The union leader queried the stand by NERC that it would make meter available to all Nigerians in 18 months.
He stressed that Nigerians could not wait for 18 months before they could stop paying for what they did not consume and urged NERC to make the meters available on time.
He also wondered why TUC and NLC were not consulted before the date of the new tariff was fixed for June 1.
Esele noted that if truly the unions were stakeholders, they would have been consulted before now.
``For NERC to want to meet with us now is like coming to rubber stamp what we do not know.''
``For you to tell us to give you more money when we feel you have not delivered on the monies given before, raises more questions.''
The NLC was absent at the meeting, which was called at the instance of the Minister of Labour to enable the minister and NERC to clear some grey areas on the Power Sector Reforms to the unions.
The NLC spokesperson, Mr Chris Uyot, told NAN in a telephone interview that the congress withdrew from the meeting to avoid misconception by the public.
``We feel it was an attempt to make us rubber stamp their plans which the government concluded before now.
``However, we shall soon come out with our stand on the new tariff through a press statement.''
Meanwhile, the NERC boss, Dr Sam Amadi, said that the reform was to deliver electricity the way it was being done in other countries.
He noted that the only way out was to ensure that the issue of metering was sorted out, noting that in 18 months, the whole country would be metered. (NAN)