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UNIBEN Electricity Disconnected Over N300m Monthly Bill – VC

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Prof. Lilian Salami, has expressed concern over the devastating impact of the recent 300 per cent electricity tariff hike on Nigerian universities.

She lamented the heavy toll on the Nigerian universities, insisting that most of the public institutions in the country were on the verge of bankruptcy.

Salami, who doubles as the Chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, also revealed that the new rate announced by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) escalated UNIBEN’s monthly electricity bill from N80m to N280m.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) alongside experts and stakeholders had opposed the tariff hike, arguing that it would drive manufacturers out of business, worsen inflation, and stifle small and medium enterprises.

Speaking with Punchng in Abuja, Prof Salami said the university had been disconnected from the national grid because it could not afford to pay about N300m monthly for electricity.

He said due to the high cost of diesel, light was being rationed for about four hours per day in the university, contrary to the 24-hour week-long power supply the students had enjoyed in the past.

“Right now, what we are going through is an electricity problem. Before now, the University of Benin could boast at least 20 to 22 hours of light that could run for weeks without a blink.

“But, as soon as the tariff was up, 300 per cent, we went from N80m which was very difficult for us to pay N280m per month. That even came when the students were on vacation.

“So, we were looking to hit N300m per month. No institution can survive paying that kind of money without declaring bankruptcy; we were on the verge of that, so we are telling the students we can’t pay.

“Of course, the reaction we got from the power distribution company is to cut off the light, so right now, the light has been cut off. We are trying to use diesel and now rationing light and the students are unhappy.

“Definitely, they can’t be, when they used to have light 24/7, running into weeks, months and now you are saying to them you can only give them for four hours.”

The vice-chancellor said the institution could not afford to pay the exorbitant cost of electricity or diesel.

“So, they are not happy. If the students tomorrow go to the streets, it is not because we don’t want to give them, but we cannot afford it.

“Yes, we’ve gotten unrest for one reason or the other, but it’s not deliberate on our part, it is outside our control,” she stated.

She highlighted some of the key achievements of the institution in the last four years, including infrastructure development with funding support from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, reduced cult-related activities and improvement in the welfare of staff and students.

Prof Salami commended TETFund for its numerous intervention programmes in public universities and other beneficiary tertiary institutions.

She described TETFund as a “Messiah” that came to rescue tertiary education in Nigeria, saying that were it not for the fund, public universities in the country would have become glorified primary schools.

She noted that the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Sonny Echono and his management team had given fresh dimensions to the fund, focusing more on research and the use of technology to drive education.

“TETFund to me is like the Messiah that came to the tertiary education system. Firstly, I want to thank ASUU who fought for us and got us to where we are now with interventions.

“I always say that but for the intervention and the assistance we are getting from TETFund, most of our universities would have been gloried primary schools. Not only is it focusing on infrastructure, but even beyond that; helping to revamp research output in universities, dealing with training and you know the role of training of lecturers.

“We want to be abreast with the current information technology. Of recent, I think, the Executive Secretary of TETFund and his team have been focusing on technology, we know that that is where the world is going to, and where the world already is, and I often said that there is no waiting time, whether you join the bus now or you will be left permanently.

“So, we are doing a lot in the universities and thanks to TETFund, because they are now really focusing on technology in education; how to drive education with technology. We are all on the bandwagon now, so we can at least be relevant in today’s world. Everywhere, you talk about technology, so, we are not left behind. We give thanks to TETFund,” she stated.

Credit: Punchng

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