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Striking Electricity Workers Plunge Nigeria Into Darkness

  • Aug 18, 2022
Daily Independent

ABUJA - Nigerians been plunged into darkness following strike action on Wednesday by workers of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) shutting down the electricity national grid resulting blackouts across the country.

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 TCN Board that all Principal Managers who are in acting capacity must undergo promotion interviews.

The grid dropped to 2,600MW from 4,149 Megawatts signalling the effects of the strike which started Wednesday morning and the grid capacity continued to drop as more workers at transmission stations downed tools.

It fell further to 939.4MW at 3pm and finally recorded zero generation at 4pm.

The protesting workers had blocked the entrance to the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, headquarters building in Abuja, when our Correspondent visited.

The building houses the Federal Ministry of Power where the Minister of Power and the Minister of State, Power have their offices. Their action locked out staff of the Ministry as well as both ministers and their aides.

NUEE General Secretary, Joe Ajaero had in the 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 action went on as planned despite the intervention of the Minister of State 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 withdrawn 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 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.

Meanwhile, the 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.

"Inspite 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" reads the statement in parts.

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