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Electricity Workers Suspend Strike After Plunging Nation Into Blackout

  • Aug 18, 2022
  • 63 views
Source: 
Daily Independent

INNOCEN OWEH; CHIDI UGWU; PATIENCE OGBODO-IWUAGWU

ABUJA, ENUGU - Electricity workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) on Wednesday night, suspended their one day strike.

This was after they plunged the country into darkness by shutting down the national grid.

After a three-hour long meeting in Abuja with Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, the workers, led by Joe Ajaero, the National Secretary of NUEE, agreed to suspend the industrial action for two weeks.

A statement by Olajide Oshundun, Head, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Labour and Employment, said, "The Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has apprehended the strike embarked upon by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) following an emergency meeting between the union, government and other stakeholders, at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.

"Dr. Ngige set up a tripartite committee to look into the grievances of electricity workers towards addressing them.

"At the end of the meeting, the Secretary General of NUEE, Joe Ajaero, assured the minister that all necessary steps would be taken to restore the supply of electricity to the country immediately."

Daily Independent learnt that the strike by the workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) was triggered by the directive of the Transmission Company of Nigeria's (TCN) board that all principal managers who are in acting capacity must undergo promotion interviews.

The grid dropped to 2,600 megawatts from 4,149 megawatts signaling the effect of the strike which started Wednesday morning.

The grid capacity continued to drop as more workers at transmission stations downed tools. It fell further to 939.4MW about 3p.m and finally recorded zero about 4p.m.

The protesting workers blocked the entrance to the Transmission Company of Nigeria's (TCN) headquarters building in Abuja, when our correspondent visited the premises.

The building houses the Federal Ministry of Power where the Minister of Power and the Minister of State for Power have their offices.

Their action locked out staff of the ministry as well as the ministers and their aides.

NUEE General Secretary, Joe Ajaero, had in a letter calling out the workers for strike said the directive for the promotion interview was in contravention of the workers' condition of service and career progression path. He said it was unilaterally done without the relevant stakeholders.

NUEE also decried the "stigmatization of staff from the Office of the Head Service of the Federation from working in other areas in the power sector.

"Refusal of the market operator to fund the payment of entitlement of ex-PHCN staff as agreed in December 2019 agreement after an industrial action by the union".

The strike went on as planned despite the intervention of the Minister of State for Power, Goddy Jedy-Agba, who had appealed for a two weeks grace to allow the government address the issues raised by the workers.

It also followed the reversal of the TCN board on the promotion interview directive. Godfrey Abah, the FCT branch chairman of NUEE, while reacting to the development, said the action will continue until their demands are met by the government and the TCN management.

Abah noted that though the workers were not happy that the nation has been left without electricity supply, he said the embarrassment is on the Federal Government.

"As citizens and as a labour union, we want supply to be everywhere but you know that the only weapon we have is to withdraw our service and that is what we have done.

We have with drawn our service to enable the government to attend to our needs and do what is right.

"The ball is in the court of the government and they know what to do. We have just received an invitation for tomorrow (Thursday) and before the close of business today we will know if the meeting will be held.

We are ready for the negotiation". Also speaking, the Zonal Organising Secretary of NUEE (Liaison), Engr. Ayodele Kolade, said workers would remain on strike until the issues are resolved.

"The government is aware of our decision to embark on this strike action. As you can see no one is working and everybody has gone home.

There is no light anywhere in Abuja and Nigeria as a whole and it will continue until our demands are met.

Failure to do this, Abuja and Nigeria will be in blackout", he stated. In the South-East, following the industrial strike embarked upon by NUEE at TCN power stations, operations across the franchise area of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company Plc (EEDC) was also disrupted.

A statement made available by Emeka Ezeh, Head, Corporate Communications, EEDC, said as a result of the strike "all our feeders are out of supply and this has affected supply to our esteemed customers in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states."

He said consultations are ongoing among critical stakeholders in the power sector to address the strike issue and possibly restore supply.

"The management of EEDC hereby encourages customers and neighborhood associations to be vigilant and protect the electrical installations within their environment against elements who might take advantage of this outage to vandalise these installations.

"We, therefore, appeal for continued patience and understanding while this is resolved," he said.

Meanwhile, TCN late Wednesday evening confirmed the shutdown of the national grid in a statement signed by Ndidi Mbah, General Manager, Public Affairs, TCN.

According Mbah, the national electric power grid has been shut down by union functionaries following the industrial dispute declared by the two in-house unions at the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

Mbah, however, noted that even as unfettered effort was being made to resolve the issues upon which the action was called.

"The incident occurred at 15:01Hrs, today after several 330kV transmission lines and 33kV feeder-lines across the power system network had been switched off by the union members, resulting in generation-load imbalance and multiple voltage escalations at critical stations and substations.

Regrettably, this is coming weeks after we had emerged from hectic grid management regime, precipitated by paucity of generation, which we grappled with for a couple of months.

"It would be recalled, in tandem with the initiative of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission on Partial Activation of Contracts - coupled with the stream of interventions by the Ministry of Power and other stakeholders in the value chain - grid generation (at peak) had reached 4,830.69MW as at yesterday, the 16th of August, 2022.

"In spite of this setback, we are set to restore the grid as quickly as possible.

The Ministries of Power and Labour & Employment are currently meeting with the union officials in order to resolve the issues.

"The Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry appreciates the understanding of our customers - within and outside the country.

Enduring mechanisms are being instituted to avert a situation of this kind, going forward", read the statement in parts.

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