Poor Electricity and Crazy Bills: Building a National Fightback

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residents paying rapt attention at the symposium on building a national fightback, held on 1 June at Iganmu, Lagos

Since the privatization of the power sector in 2013, working-class people and youth in Nigeria have risen time and again in various communities to protest worsening power supply and “crazy bills”. But, lacking national coordination, these torrents of spontaneous mass actions which were largely led by youths in the localities have ebbed, often without significant gains made with the struggle.

In 2015, there was widespread protests, with demonstrations in states as far flung as Edo, Lagos, Osun, Ebonyi, Enugu, Ekiti, Ondo, Delta and Kwara states, as well as FCT Abuja. In the Socialist Worker, we noted then that “there is the need for us to unite this emergent national resistance”.

There was a second wave of struggle in 2018. This was particularly waged by women and youth in communities where there had been power outages lasting for years.

In April last year for example, hundreds of women from the Alaba-Oro, Mosafejo and Amukoko area of Lagos, stormed the headquarters of Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) on the Marina. For six years, whenever electricity was supplied at all, it would be for just about an hour and this would be in the afternoon. Yet, as one of the protesters said at the time “at the end of the month, they will give us outrageous bills without enjoying the supply”.

And in August, the towns and streets in Ondo South senatorial district where several communities had been in complete darkness for upwards of ten years, were taken over by angry youths led by the United Action for Democracy. Major public corporations and government offices were shutdown by the protesters and the Lagos-Ore-Benin highway was blocked. It was only at the beginning of this year that electricity was restored in some of the communities affected.

A new wave of resistance is unfurling, emerging once again from below – in the communities. There are two important attributes of this nascent movement. First, at its heart are working-class people as residents. Unlike earlier movements led by youth, women or other groups in the communities, the entire residents in communities of working people, organized as “landlords and tenants associations” are coming together, uniting to fight.

Second, this movement is bringing a broad array of communities together, uniting their struggle. Residents of Mushin and Ijora communities in Lagos state took the first step in this direction, as landlords and tenants. After residents of Mushin organized a demonstration at the EEKDC in Marina on 16 April, the Ijora Landlords and Tenants association took up the gauntlet, inviting residents’ associations from all over the state and the #TakeItBack movement (#TIB) to collectively strategize on broadening the resistance.

To consolidate on this #TIB organized a joint symposium in conjunction with the Landlord and Tenants Association of Nigeria (LATAN) Orile-Iganmu chapter, on 1st of June 2019, at Iganmu. The theme of the symposium was “Crazy electricity bill and the Imperative of a Nationally Coordinated Fightback”.

The keynote speaker was Omoyele Sowore, Convener of the #TakeItBack movement and National Chairperson of the African Action Congress {AAC}. Other speakers were Kunle wizman Ajayi, a leading member of the Socialist Workers and Youth League and acting Chairperson, AAC, Lagos Chapter; Seni Ajayi; a leading member of the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) and Comrade Ogedengbe, Chairperson of the Landlord and Tenants Association, Orile Iganmu Chapter.

announcement of the well attended public symposium

There were over 1,000 residents of Iganmu and people from several other communities at the symposium. The atmosphere was charged. There was fervent unanimity for action and for this to be as far-reaching as possible, across the country, until victory. Speaker after speaker, including many of the residents kept referring to how ordinary people revolted in Sudan and Algeria, defeating regimes that had been in power for decades. Indeed, nothing ignites revolutionary fervor like revolutions!

It was resolved as a first step of joint action to organize a mass demonstration against crazy and estimated electricity bills that will bring together a mass of working people from across the length and breadth of the state on 17 June.

Commitment was made by the residents’ associations towards ensuring the protest is highly massified. The symposium, building on resolutions of earlier meetings of the joint forces of #TIB, LATAN and Advocacy Against Anti-Corruption and Bribery for a nationwide showdown against oppressive anti-poor people policies of the Government, also emphasized that the mass demonstrations to be organized across the country must help draw the connections between crazy bills and epileptic power supply on one hand, and privatization, rising cost of life and increasing poverty of the working masses on the other.

The people united cannot be defeated, once we are determined and committed to fight until victory. We say NO to epileptic power supply and crazy bills! We say NO to capitalism the system which breeds exploitation and oppression of working-class people!!

Onward forward to a better society! Fight against crazy bills!! Socialism is the future, fight for it NOW!!!

by Sanyaolu JUWON

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