After shutting down the national grid for more than five hours and plunging the entire country into darkness, the leadership of National Union of Electricity Employees of Nigeria (NUEE) yesterday announced a suspension of its strike by two weeks.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the decision was taken after a conciliation meeting between the federal government and the striking electricity workers held in Abuja.
The emergency meeting between the union, government and other stakeholders, which was at the instance of the minister of Labour and employment, Chris Ngige, also had in attendance the minister of power, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu, and minister of state for power, Goddy Jedy-Agba.
At the end of the meeting, the secretary general of NUEE, Joe Ajaero and the president general, Senior Staff Association of Electricity & Allied Workers, assured the minister that all necessary steps would be taken to restore the supply of electricity to the country immediately.
It was further gathered that at the end of the three-hour long meeting, the workers agreed to suspend the industrial action which has thrown the country into a total blackout.
The workers express optimism the government will listen to the voice of reasoning and give priority attention to their welfare and wellbeing.
LEADERSHIP had reported that NUEE shut down the national grid, thereby throwing the nation into darkness.
The strike came after appeals by the minister of state for power and the managing director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to the union to suspend the proposed strike failed.
The striking workers of the electricity sector had shut down the electricity national grid, causing blackout across the country for more than five hours.
The impact of the strike began unfolding at 10am yesterday when the grid dropped from 4,149 megawatts recorded at 6am to 2,600MW. 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.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the protesting workers had blocked the entrance to the TCN headquarters building in Abuja,
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 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 “stigmatisation of staff from the office of the Head Service of the Federation from working in other areas in the power sector and 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 Goddy Jedy-Agba who had appealed for a two-week 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.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, the FCT Branch chairman of NUEE, Godfrey Abah, 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 had been left without electricity supply, 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 (today) 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. 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.
Following the Industrial Dispute declared by the two in-house Unions at the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), the national electric power grid was shut down by Union officials.
TCN general manager, Public Affairs, Ndidi Mbah, who confirmed the grid shutdown, in a statement yesterday said the incident occurred at 15:01hrs yesterday 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 a hectic grid management regime, precipitated by paucity of generation, which we grappled with for a couple of months.”
He revealed that grid generation had reached a peak of 4,830.69MW by 16th of August, 2022, before the setback from the industrial action.
“In spite of this setback, we are set to restore the grid as quickly as possible. The Ministries of Power and Labour and Employment are currently meeting with the Union officials in order to resolve the issues,” Mbah said.
Commenting on the shutdown, the chief executive officer of Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), Dr Muda Yusuf said the strike by the electricity workers has serious implications for investors.
Yusuf noted that, already, one of the biggest challenges that investors face currently is high energy cost and that many investors had been able to rely to some extent on public power supply to cushion the effect of the high cost of diesels.
“Many of them, because of the situation with diesels, rely heavily on public power supply, and with this strike, it is going to impose a very heavy burden on business because the alternative is equally extremely expensive,” he said.
He added that “the cost of diesel is high so the impact will be high on operating cost and production cost and will have effect on the prices of goods and services. Our prayer is that this will not last for too long so that businesses can continue to take advantage of whatever power is available for them from the public power supply.”
He urged the government to engage labour issues promptly, saying “we should not create a culture that gives the impression that the only language the government understands is strike.
“The government should not conduct the affair of governance in a way that will be encouraging this high frequency of strikes. They should respond to issues promptly and offer timely solutions.”