FG, electricity workers reach truce, suspend strike

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Total national blackout was averted yesterday after the officials of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity engaged electricity workers union in a fruitful negotiation to resolve demands that led to a strike which was capable of pulling down the already faltering economy of the country.

The electricity workers hosted in the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) suspended their industrial strike action late on Wednesday but regions in the country remained in electricity black out following earlier shut down of critical service facilities and systems in the supply system.

The strike which raised nationwide panic was suspended after leaders the workers’ union held an urgent meeting with the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, to discuss the workers’ grievances and demands from the government.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen Chris Ngigechats with President Muhammadu Buhari

The workers protested some management decisions concerning workers’ promotion at the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) which is the only company in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) still controlled by the government.

According to statements credited to the Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Comrade Joe Ajaero, the workers and TCN disputed over a directive by the board of the TCN that all Principal Managers must undergo promotion interview to become Assistant General Managers.

Comrade Ajaero declared in a statement that the directive was unilateral and violated the workers’ conditions of service and growth opportunity.

The statement also touched other issues, including allegations that officials seconded from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation are stagnated and prevented from internal transfers within the company.

The workers also protested non-payment of December 2019 entitlement to former workers of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

After the emergency meeting with the minister, the protesting workers agreed to suspend their strike and expressed hope that their grievances would be addressed by the government.

The intervention by Dr Ngige came after the workers threw three major cities in the three key regions of the country into darkness.

The Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company had immediately declared force majeure, informing its customers that it would no longer be able to meet its service obligations due to suspension of services by the TCN. The distribution company cited the dispute between the NUEE  and TCN as the major reason for supply suspension.

In a statement on Wednesday via its verified Twitter handle, @IkejaElectric, the Disco announced the shutdown of operations.

The statement read partly, “Due to the ongoing nationwide picketing of Transmission Stations by the NUEE, we are currently experiencing disruption of power supply as most stations within our network have been shut down. Kindly bear with us as we await an amicable resolution by the relevant stakeholders,” the statement from the company read in part.

The NUEE members had mobilized to the Abuja national headquarters of the TCN on Tuesday for the strike which commenced on Wednesday.

Despite calling off the strike yesterday, however, most cities in Lagos remained without electricity supply, and a source close to the two distribution companies in Lagos State said that it would take some time for the distribution stations shut earlier in the day to reactivate.

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