By Tabora Bojang
Hundreds of activists and electricity consumers staged a demonstration Saturday to show their opposition to the “exorbitant hike” in electricity bills.
The National Water and Electricity Company (Nawec) introduced new tariffs on April 10 raising electricity charges for domestic consumers from D10.14 to D13.85 per kilowatt while domestic consumed water went from D13.5 to D18 per cubic meter. The new tariffs sparked controversy which continues to rumble on for weeks.
The protest organised by civil society movement Team Gom Sa Bopa under the theme “DafaDoy” (It’s enough), attracted old and young men, women and children who gathered at the Nawec headquarters holding placards and banners with slogans reading: “Affordable electricity and water is a human right!”; “Bring back cheaper tariffs!”
In a petition read by its public relations officer Yusuf Taylor, the demonstrators, called on Nawec and the government to immediately reduce the tariffs, engage wider public consultation on increases as dictated by the Pura Act and ensure stable supply of water and electricity to all customers.
“If Nawec fails to heed to our demands the general public has been placed on notice to launch another protest against Nawec and its extortionately high tariffs. It is our strong belief that the increase does not commensurate with the increases in Nawec’s operating costs and its sub-contractors providing these basic services to the Gambian people.”
The group accused authorities of failing to consider the current earnings of low to medium income workers who will bear the brunt of the increases.
“If this extortionate tariff continues, many Gambians would not be able to pay for water and electricity forcing many more into poverty,” Taylor lamented.
The protestors walked to Nawec headquarters under a heavy police escort and handed over the petition to Nawec head, Nani Juwara, who pledged to engage the management and government over the concerns.
MD Juwara stressed that Nawec is “here for everybody and it will do what is right for the people.”
Nawec’s communication and public relations supervisor Buba Badjie told The Standard that Nawec was placed between a rock and a hard place as the only options were to “either increase the tariff or close operations. Because we are not in control of the materials we are using. They are not manufactured in The Gambia.”
Activist Madi Jobarteh, who rejected such claims, said the problem is that, “Nawec is inherently and perennially corrupt, inefficient and mismanaged since it was created and the government is reckless by not ensuring there is efficient, effective and responsive delivery of utility service”.
Electricity consumer, Bintou SaidyKhan, described the tariff as “very annoying” charging that President Barrow has “failed to deliver” on his promise to tackle poverty and youth unemployment.
Bintou lamented that with the current increases, families are struggling to buy cashpower, which is affecting their quality of life.