The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has said last week’s industrial action by electricity workers was in contrary to the rule of law.
This is even as he alleged that it was as a result of a power struggle between the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC).
Ngige, who was on Channels Television’s Lunchtime Politics, said an investigation by the Labour Ministry showed the level of power struggle.
He explained that the strike cost the country billions of naira and loss of lives.
“My initial investigation as the Minister of Labour is that there is a power play between NUEE and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity Workers, who are domiciled there.
“There is a power struggle on who is senior and who is more potent in terms of effecting unionism and they have carried this on and inflicted the whole country with a power outage that has cost us billions of naira and loss of lives; it is unfair and I have told them not to do that.”
The Labour Minister stated that his ministry would carry out further investigations on the matter and invoke the relevant labour laws on liable unions.
“The unions are not omni-sacrosanct that we can’t do anything to them. We will look at the issue and, if they are liable, I will invoke the relevant sections of the labour act on that.
“The preliminary investigation shows that there is a power play, and they cannot use power play to punish the entire nation and make us lose man-hours, billions of naira and lose lives in hospitals where the generators are not working,” he said.
On the lingering issues between the unions, the Ministry of Power, DisCos) and GenCos, Ngige faulted the processes adopted by electricity workers to embark on the nationwide strike, stressing that respect for the rule of law must be upheld.
“The rule of law is not for the government alone, it is for the citizens too. There are set laws for people to apply in industrial relations and all are encapsulated in the trade dispute act.
“Before somebody on essential service, of which electricity workers are one, can proceed on industrial action; you must notify your direct employers first and the onus is on them to convene a meeting, they then approach the labour ministry, the labour minister is there, that’s my work and they give the ultimatum and there are special forms called the ‘Trade Dispute forms’ which they fill and lodge in the ministry; all that was not done.
“They just had issues with their direct employers, the Ministry of Power, the DisCos, which is mostly privatised, with the government having just 40 per cent while the investors have 60 percent,” he said.
Ngige also revealed that the problems were more with the DisCos and GenCos, and where it concerns the Federal Government is in the aspect of the severance package.
He stated that since the unbundling of the power sector, 400 persons out of the remaining 600 outstanding cases have been captured.