By Isaac Anumihe, Adewale Sanyaolu, Merit Ibe and Adanna Nnamani
After over twelve hours of national power blackout, striking electricity workers yesterday backed down on their struggle, promising to restore power to the nation following a 3 -hour meeting with the Federal Government on Wednesday.
The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) which had earlier directed its members to commence an industrial strike by shutting down electricity supply across the country, citing neglect of staff welfare and failure of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to pay entitlements of their members among other contentious matters agreed to allow the government another two weeks to look into their grievances .
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, had invited the striking workers for an emergency meeting in his office on behalf of the government to resolve the issues that led to the strike.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Chike Ben, President General, Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Workers (SSAEC), said the issues leading to the strike could have been addressed earlier if there was the right communication with all parties and vowed to end the strike.
According to him, “I thank the Minister or Labour and the Minister of State for Power, for their maturity in handling the issues that we brought up.
“These issues would have been tackled earlier if there was the right communication with all parties. But as we have said, we have been given two weeks to report back to the full house. We assure the nation that going forward, such crisis will be nipped in the bud before it escalates.
On when power will be restored, Mr Ben said “Yes. You are going to have light today.
Briefing journalists on the outcome of the meeting, Ngige said after exhaustive deliberations on the issues in dispute, the parties agreed to constitute a bipartite committee to look into the grievances of the electricity workers and report back in two weeks.
According to the Minister, members of the bipartite committee include the Minister of State for Power, Jeddy Agba (Chairman), Permanent Secretary, Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Permanent Secretary, General Services, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, representative of Bureau of Public Enterprice (BPE) and two representatives from NUEE and SSAEC.
The Minister said the committee has two weeks to report back to the whole house.
He said the meeting afforded them opportunity to thrash out all the issues in dispute, adding that his ministry has apprehended the dispute.
Earlier yesterday, Nigerian state was in a state of quandry after electricity workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Workers(NUEE) made good their threat to disrupt power supply services over disagreement with the Federal Government.
As early as 11.46am Wednnesday, the union members had commenced the gradual shutdown of transmission facilities across the country with 60 per cent of transmission stations demobilised.
The union had hinged its decision to commence industrial action on the failure of the Federal Government to pay the entitlement of former staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in December 2019.
In a video spotted on, the electricity workers were seen shutting down power stations in Abuja while chanting solidarity song.
The Union has shut down the Kaduna regional headquarters of the TCN in line with the directive of its national leadership.
The regional station covers four northwestern states, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara.
To keep its customers abreast of the development, Ikeja Electric in a notice to consumers said ‘‘Due to the ongoing nationwide picketing by 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 amicable resolution by the relevant stakeholders’’.
For its part, Benin Electricity Distribution Company(BEDC), said it regrets to notify its customers within its franchise states of Delta, Edo, Ekiti and Ondo of the ongoing nationwide strike by NUEE at the Transmission Company of Nigeria(TCN) power stations
The strike according to some industry observers was avoidable because the Union had in May this year warned that its members may withdraw their services any moment, if Federal Government fails to address the challenges in the sector.
The general secretary of the Union, Joe Ajaero, stated that from attacks on some transmission equipment in the North-East to burning down of villages around Shiroro Power Station by bandits to the kidnapping of workers in Niger State and workers of Afam Power Station, the safety of NUEE members has been grossly compromised.
Ajaero equally stated that business owners in the generation sub-sector have continued to inflict more sufferings on electricity workers by refusing to sign conditions of service, thereby indulging in unhindered violation of extant labour laws and employees’ rights.