FG/ASUU face-off persists, electricity workers suspend strike




Four hours after total blackout nationwide, the leadership of the electricity workers have announced the suspension of their industrial action by two weeks.

The union said it went on strike over “contravention of workers’ conditions and default on the payment of entitlement by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).”

Blueprint gathered that a conciliation meeting between the federal government and the striking electricity workers was held in Abuja.

At the end of the three-hour-long meeting, a source said “the workers agreed to suspend for two weeks the industrial action which has thrown the country into a total blackout.”

The workers expressed the optimism government will listen to the voice of reason and priotise their welfare and wellbeing.

The strike, while it lasted caused nationwide blackout and also crumbled economic activities across the country.

Blueprint learnt that the blackout which occurred at 3:01pm, affected some cities and villages in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Electricity workers suspend strike for 2 weeks

Announcing the workers’ decision to call off after the meeting, President General Association of Senior Staff of Electricity and Allied Workers (SSEAW) Comrade Chika Ben said they were suspending the strike for two weeks.

The meeting was at the instance of Minister of Labour and Employment Dr. Ngige and Minister of State for Poweri Goddy Jedy-Agba.

He said the workers were expected to report back to the lager house within two weeks.

“The issues that we had, well I thank the ministers, both labour and that of state for power for their maturity in handling the issues we brought up. These issues would have been tackled earlier if there was a communication with all the parties. 

 “Well, we have given two weeks to report to the larger house. We assure the nation that such issue will be nipped in the bud before the issues escalate.”

Agada had Tuesday pleaded with the aggrieved electricity workers to give the government two weeks to address the issues raised and come up with proposals for an acceptable resolution.

TCN’s move

Prior to the truce, the management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) had said efforts were on to resolve the issues which resulted in the industrial action.

A statement by the TCN General Manager Public Affairs Ms. Ndidi Mbah said: “Following the Industrial Dispute declared by the two in-house Unions at the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), the national electric power grid has been shut down by Union functionaries—even as unfettered effort was being made to resolve the issues upon which the action was called.

“The incident occurred at 15:01Hrs, today, 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.

“It would be recalled, in tandem with the initiative of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission on Partial Activation of Contracts-coupled with the stream of interventions by the Ministry of Power and other stakeholders in the Value Chain-grid generation (at peak) had reached 4,830.69MW as at yesterday, the 16th of August 2022.

“In spite of this setback, we are set to restore the grid as quickly as possible. The Ministries of Power and Labour & Employment are currently meeting with the Union Officials to resolve the issues.

“The Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry appreciates the understanding of our customers—within and outside the country. Enduring mechanisms are being instituted to avert a situation of this kind, going forward”.

The shutdown

While the strike lasted, the electricity workers among others shut down the Kaduna regional headquarters of the TCN in line with the directive of the union’s national leadership.

The regional station covers four states in the North-west, including Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara.

In Kaduna, the union members picketed TCN office in Kaduna and others across over their unpaid entitlements and unpaid allowances.

The development led to power interruption in parts of Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states.

Responding to the development and complaints from its customers, Kaduna Electric said it was not their making.  

The company’s head of corporate communications, Malam AbdulAzeez Abdullahi, in a statement Wednesday said: “The management of Kaduna Electric wishes to inform its customers that the interruption of supply being experienced in parts of our franchise states (Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara) is due to the ongoing disputes between the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Company (SSAEAC) and TCN. 

“Supply shall be restored as soon as the contending issues are resolved.”  

Also, the Ikeja Electric also hinted its customers on the labour dispute which crumbled power supply.

“Dear Esteemed Customer, Due to the ongoing nationwide picketing of Transmission Stations by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), we are currently experiencing disruption of power supply as most stations within our network have been shut down,” Ikeja Disco said in a public notice.

“Kindly bear with us as we await amicable resolution by the relevant stakeholders. Thank you for your usual understanding and cooperation,” the Ikeja Electric had said.

…AEDC too

As at the time of filing this report at 7:39pm, the nation’s capital was still in darkness.

Explaining the development, the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) Wednesday blamed the recent  power outages in parts of FCT on the industrial issues between the NUEE and the TCN.

AEDC stated this on its twitter handle, assuring however that the issues would be resolved soonest.

”Abuja Electricity Distribution Plc (AEDC), wishes to inform its distinguished Customers that the interruption of the power supply being experienced across its franchise areas is due to the ongoing industrial issues between the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Transmission Company of
Nigeria (TCN).

”We will like to assure our valued Customers that all stakeholders are working, hard to ensure that a mutual and amicable settlement is attained and power is restored forthwith. Thank you for your patience and understanding,” it said.

EEDC

Also, the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) said there was blackout in the southeast as a result of the industrial dispute.

EEDC’s Head of Corporate Communications Emeka Ezeh confirmed this to journalists.

He said: “As a result of this development, all our feeders are out of supply and this has affected supply to our esteemed customers in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states.

“Consultations are ongoing among critical stakeholders in the power sector to address this issue and possibly restore supply.

“The Management of EEDC hereby encourages customers and neighbourhood associations to be vigilant and protect the electrical installations within their environment against elements who might take advantage of this outage to vandalise these installations.

“We, therefore, appeal for continued patience and understanding while this is resolved.”

 FG explains power outage

Meanwhile, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) Wednesday approved N2.7 billion as augmentation cost for the resettlement of communities affected by the construction of Zungeru hydroelectric power project.

 Minister of Power Abubakar D. Aliyu said this at the end of the weekly FEC meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Today, I approached council to seek approval of revised estimated total costs for the updated rates of building structures of compensation and resettlement of the communities affected by the construction of 700 megawatts Zungeru Hydroelectric power project in the total sum of N2,740,000,000 which will revise the subsisting amount from  N19,640,000,000 to N22,380,000,000 and the council graciously approved the request,” he said.

The minister also spoke on the recent drop in the level of power generation in the country, saying the major problem was that of gas.

“Regarding the drop of electricity, yes, you know, the supplier has so many players, gas, the cost that drop, issues of gas to some power plants they cannot switch on their plant, you will experience some drop once they switch on and the electricity will increase.

“There may be a drop due to the fault of the generator and the electricity would drop. It’s mostly generation. I’ve been watching since like yesterday evening, we had a generation of over 4000, around 4600 megawatts. And you know, we told you since 1st July, that we’ll be able to raise it up to 5000 when we activate the contract.

“And we have not been able to do so, due to some issues around gas contracts, gas to power, which we are trying to take care of. And we have gone very far with that, and I believe, it is for that reason that we’re able to reach up to 4600 as of yesterday.

“This morning, it dropped to 4100. So, this is what is happening, you will be experiencing this fluctuation due to all these issues around gas to power, because gas is not something that we control directly, you have to pay them, they will not give you gas until you pay. So, we are looking at ways to solve that issue,” he said.

ASUU’s strike persists

But while a truce was achieved in the electricity workers’ strike, the peace parley between the federal government and the Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU) ended in a deadlock after three hours.

The ASUU leaders met with the Nimi Briggs Committee renegotiating the 2009 Agreements with the university unions at the National Universities Commission (NUC) Secretariat.

Premium Times gathered that the offer from the  government team was a far-cry from the demands of the striking varsity teachers union.

The source said: “The meeting didn’t end well. What the government proposed was a far cry from ASUU’s demands.

“The meeting didn’t meet the demands of ASUU. What the government was proposing was a far cry from the expectations of ASUU.

“If the government feels there is no money for them to pay and they want the universities to remain shut, it is okay.”

It was gathered that the committee begged ASUU to call off the strike with the pledge that their demands would be captured in next year’s Appropriation Act.

The lecturers, it was further gathered, rejected the plea and insisted on its demands being met before calling off the strike.

Worried by the lingering industrial dispute, President Muhammadu Buhari had on July 19 directed Adamu to proffer a solution to the challenge and report back to him in two weeks.

Adamu offered to take over negotiations with the university unions from Labour and Employment Minister Senator Chris Ngige, who had been at the forefront on the negotiations on July 19, 2022.

The minister subsequently gave himself two to three weeks to reach agreement with the unions and revert to the President.

Nothing has been heard of the efforts made by the Education minister since the ultimatum ended on August 9, a development that forced the union to extend the six month-old strike by four weeks.

Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, said last week that the Federal Government was not in a position to borrow N1.2 trillion yearly to resolve the long running strike embarked by ASUU.

He said: “Should we go and borrow to pay N1.2 trillion yearly?”, Keyamo said napped while fielding questions on Channels Television.

“You cannot allow one sector of the economy to hold you by the jugular and then blackmail you to go and borrow N1.2 trillion for overheads when our total income would be about N6.1 trillion. And you have roads to build, health centres to build, other sectors to take care of.”

He urged parents to beg ASUU, drawing angry reactions from many Nigerian.

Related content you may like