Demand review of privatisation programme
Bimbola Oyesola, Adewale Sanyaolu
Electricity workers’ union yesterday, picketed and shut down the headquarters of Ikeja Electric (IE), over accusations of deliberately hoarding prepaid meters meant for distribution to customers amid deteriorating power supply to consumers.
The union further queried the distribution company over its seeming inability to deliver steady power supply to Nigerians at corresponding rates of consumption, adding that the hoarding of prepaid meters has created opportunity to reap off consumers through estimated billing.
The workers, under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), led by its Secretary General, Mr. Joe Ajaero, equally accused IE of engaging in anti-labour activities, including its continued sacking of workers.
They have, however, demanded a review of the power sector privatisation without further delay having failed to deliver on its promises.
The enraged electricity workers, who barricaded the IE headquarters, had alleged, among others, the arbitrary dismissal of workers without consultations with the union, poor welfare, uneven salary structure, adoption of anti-labour policies and frustration of the implementation of service conditions.
Ajaero said the maltreatment of workers by IE has lingered for over two years without consideration for conducive working conditions.
But the management of IE, in reaction to the picketing of its headquarters and other facilities, warned that the action was capable of disrupting economic activities and bringing untold hardship to consumers who may begin to experience total blackout.
Head, Corporate Communications of IE, Mr. Felix Ofolue, said the picketing of its offices was sequel to a claim by the union that the company disengaged 40 workers and have forcibly resisted access to IE personnel and customers who have attempted to gain access to the offices.
According to Ofolue, the recent separation of staff was due to varying actions which are not in furtherance of the overall company objectives.
The protest, he said, was coming on the heels of the promotions of about 300 employees last week and the recruitment of over 500 new staff in the past one year, pointing out that the promotion exercise cut across all cadres of staff, including members of the respective unions in the organisation.
He, however, questioned the motive for embarking on the protest which he described as self-serving.
“When NUEE chooses to cripple socio-economic activities of over a million households for issues that can be resolved through dialogue, one then wonders if the motives are as selfless as they claim. How do you plunge a country’s commercial nerve centre into darkness because of a few of your members who have been separated from the business for cogent reasons.
It is really appalling. It’s an abuse of privilege to picket,” he said.
“Imagine that our employees in Alausa Injection Sub Station were chased out of the facility by the union and they had to shut down nine feeders that supply power to Ikeja and its environs on safety grounds. This has resulted in an immediate blackout for at least 3,000 customers,” Ofulue concluded.
He, however, apologised to customers for the disruption of service by NUEE and promised that the Disco will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure improved and quality service to our customers.”