Nigeria passes the cost of falling oil prices onto citizens by hiking rates for electricity

Nigerians protest electricity rate hikes in Lagos. (Photo credit: Sam Olukoya)

A 45 percent price hike in electricity rates is sparking protests across Nigeria. Many Nigerians scoff at being charged more for sub-par power service. Nigeria suffers frequent power failure and many of its citizens have to rely on electricity generators at home and to run their businesses. Sam Olukoya was at the Lagos protest.

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Workers and members of civil society groups picket the premises of the Ikeja Electricity distribution company, one of the largest power companies in Nigeria. It’s a scene playing out across Nigeria in response to a 45 percent increase in the price electricity.

“We cannot even understand why the decision to increase electricity tariff at this material time when wages are extremely low to cope with the increasing rising cost of living,” says Ismail Bello of the Nigeria Labor Congress, the umbrella workers union behind the nationwide protests. “Transportation is on the rise, Many workers can’t pay their children school fees, housing cost is rising, food cost is rising and yet government is determined to increase electricity bill by 50 percent, so how will the worker cope?”

The energy sector is a joint venture between the Nigerian government and private companies. Nigeria’s economy has been in a downward spiral ever since oil prices began to nosedive on world markets. Crude oil sales account for more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s export earnings.

Africa’s largest oil exporter is now seeking other ways to generate funds and has turned to the domestic power sector. But low-income Nigerians are paying the highest price, struggling to make ends meet amid rising inflation while wages remain static.

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