This Day (Lagos)

10 January 2014

Nigeria: Nationwide Blackout Looms As Electricity Workers Begin Strike Tuesday

The already deplorable power situation in the country may worsen as workers in the power sector have threatened to stop the supply of electricity across the country by Tuesday, January 14.

The industrial action is a protest against the federal government's refusal to conclude the payment of workers' entitlements following the privatisation of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

The industrial action follows the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum issued by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) to the federal government in December last year to conclude all labour-related issues in the sector.

General Secretary of NUEE, Mr Joe Ajaero, who announced the strike at a press conference in Lagos, lamented that two months after the handover of the assets of the defunct PHCN, the labour issues are yet to be concluded.

He insisted that no staff of the defunct PHCN was fully paid his or her entitlements, calling on the government to tell the public where the money that had been released for the payment of the benefits had disappeared.

He stated that all members including the disengaged and retired workers of the defunct PHCN had been directed to occupy power installations and offices across the country thereby disrupting power supply.

Ajaero, who briefed journalists alongside other union officials, warned that if the union's grievances were not addressed after Tuesday's protest, the union would declare a full-blown industrial action.

"Our Strike is in phases. Due to the public holiday on Monday next week, we have decided to start a protest by asking all our members including those that who were disengaged to go back to their stations. Families of dead colleagues must report back to their stations. This is prelude to further actions by the union.

"We will not keep quiet for the fact that money was realised from the privatisation process and we do not know where the money meant for the payment of workers' entitlements is being kept. Doing that means we have failed in our responsibility to defend the rights of our members.

"There are members who have not been paid anything since the handing over of the assets of PHCN to private investors. We make bold to say that nobody has been paid fully even those that have been disengaged have not been paid," he explained.

He noted that over 25,000 workers had not received their pension components while over 5,000 workers who retired statutorily were yet to be paid their gratuities.

"The pension deductions of about 48,000 workers from July 2012 to date have not been effected. The entitlements of over 48,000 staff covering July 2012 have not been paid. Over 50 percent of the workers have been wrongly and illegally disengaged. About 3,000 verified casual staff have been verbally sent out of the industry without remuneration," he said.

Speaking further, Ajaero said 10 percent equity shareholding for workers as collectively agreed had been jettisoned while salaries and wages of employees had been unilaterally reduced. "All efforts made before now to address the various issues by the relevant ministries and agencies of government have met brick wall. We have waited patiently up to this moment, appealing to these ministries and agencies to do the needful but to no avail," he lamented.

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