Members of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) have withdrawn their services at the Kaduna Regional Headquarters of the Transmission Company of Nigeria(TCN) in line with the directive of the union’s national leadership.
The TCN Kaduna Regional station covers four northwestern states, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara.
On Wednesday morning, NUEE officials picketed the Mando TCN Station in the Kaduna state capital, shutting down operations, and thereafter, forced workers out of the company’s premises before locking the gate with their own key.
They vowed not to resume work until all their demands are met by the Federal Government.
The electricity union is protesting the non payment of outstanding arrears owed to former workers of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), suspension of conditions of service and career path for workers and the directive by the TCN board to conduct promotion interviews for acting principal managers who are moving to Assistant General Managers .
Several employees of the Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company on Thursday protested against what they termed as the “unfair arrest and detention of two of their colleagues”
The employees also alleged that the arrest was a carried out on the orders of the Deputy Speaker of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, Mr. John Audu.
The aggrieved workers, under the Umbrella of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), claimed that two staffs of the distribution company, were arrested on Wednesday July, 1st 2016 by policemen from the Sabon Tasha Police station in Chikun Local Government Area of the state on the orders of the Deputy Speaker, for disconnecting his residence following his inability to settle his electricity bills for several months.
The Assistant General Secretary of the Union, Moses Amedu who led the protest, told reporters that the embattled Deputy Speaker had failed to pay his electricity bill for over a period of five months, a situation which he said prompted the officials to cut-off power supply to his house.
He viewed the behaviour of the lawmaker, as an abuse of authority, and stressed the need for the safety and security of workers.
The members of the NUEE protested against alleged inhuman treatment meted against their colleagues by Mr. Audu, carrying placards and chanting solidarity songs.
The workers marched to the residence of the deputy speaker to demand why he ordered the arrest of their colleagues who were merely discharging their official duties.
For close to two hours, the deputy speaker who was at home refused to address the protesters. He also refused to speak to journalists to give his own side of the story.
The electricity workers who laid siege at his gate in Mahauta area of Sabon Tasha, describe his action as inappropriate of a man who is supposed to make laws for the people.
Also, the management of Kaduna Electric, through its spokesman, Abdulaziz Abdulahi condemned the action of the deputy speaker, describing it as sheer impunity.
The company said that after discovering that the House had been reconnected without following due process, their men disconnected it again only for the deputy speaker to order their arrest.
The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has directed its members to withdraw their services from all installations in the event of further provocation by armed military personnel desperate to take over PHCN installations.
A statement signed by the Secretary General of the Union, Mr. Joe Ajaero, said the plan of the federal government to hand over the power assets negated the agreement it reached with the union to resolve all outstanding labour issues.
Mr. Ajaero insisted that the gratuity payment the government made was only 68 per cent complete and no member of the union has had their pension contributions transferred into their retirement savings accounts.
He said “those that retired from service since 2011 have not received their benefits totaling about N19bn. The differences of the shortfall of the terminal benefits from June 30, 2012 till date have not been considered for payment.
“The biometrically captured and considered casuals’ appointment has not been addressed. The question of 10 per cent equity shareholding (in the companies) by the workers as statutorily provided has not been given attention.
While we appreciate and sympathise with the core investors, we ask for their understanding and that of the Nigerian public in our pursuit to ensure a seamless transition. We are resolute on receiving every kobo owed us as we are sure such liabilities will not be borne by the new investors unless there is a commitment to that effect from them.”
This threat is coming barely 24 hours before the federal government hands over the Power Holding Company of Nigeria will be handed over to their new owners.
Meanwhile, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Power, Ambassador Godknows Igali, has said that there’s no justification for a strike because the federal government has made significant progress in the payment of the disengaged workers, with over 40,000 out of the 47,913 identified fully paid.
Despite the threat of a nationwide strike by electricity workers come November the 1st, the federal government says it would go ahead with the physical hand over of the company’s assets to the new owners on that day.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry Of Power, Mister Godknows Igali, announced this after a meeting with Vice President Namadi Sambo, on the power privatisation process.
He added that the federal government had made significant progress in the payment of the disengaged workers, saying 40,093 out of the 47,913 identified disengaged PHCN workers had been fully paid their entitlements which he put at 294.4 billion Naira.
It will be recalled that President Gooduck Jonathan had formally handed over the Power Holdings Company of Nigeria, PHCN, to private organisations that bought it, with a pledge that they would take over the companies without any liabilities.
The President who personally gave out the licenses and share certificates to the investors at the Aso Rock Villa stated that liabilities of the PHCN would be managed by Nigerian Electricity Liability Management Company, NELMCO.
The National Union of Electricity Employees and Senior Staff Association of Electricity Workers have described the ongoing privatization of the power sector “as anti-people and a drawback for the economy”.
Acting President of Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajearo while addressing electricity workers during the national sensitisation tour of the North East Zone in Jos, observed that the country is not ripe for privatization in the sector.
The labour leader argued that privatisation is a post industrialisation process and not developmental as the nation has the resources to develop and nurture the power sector rather than leaving it in private hands to manipulate the people.
The north East Vice President of the union, Hajia Lami Mohammed urged workers to remain calm as the union is making efforts to ensure that all entitlements of the workers are paid before disengagement.
As the power reform exercise continues to generate different views, the major demand of the electricity workers is that all entitlements of the workers must be paid by the government before the privatisation exercise could be discussed.
The ministry of power has responded to the allegations of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) of federal government’s intentions to kick them out of the system without gratuity.
A statement signed by the special adviser to the Minister of Power, Anikwe Ogbuagu states that “a hand full of workers has in the last three days used all manner of force to prevent conscientious and law-abiding TCN employees from not only carrying out their legitimate duties but even gaining access to their offices. These misguided workers who are purportedly acting under the auspices of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) allege that security forces have been unleashed on them, that the TCN has been privatized and consequently handed over to Manitoba International to retrench the company’s entire workforce without their severance benefits being paid.
Mister Ogbuagu described the allegations as false and that security has since September, 2011, been enhanced at all PHCN installations and facilities across the nation because of the obvious security challenges in some parts of the country.
The statement attempts to clarify that the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) has not been privatized, and will not be privatized. Since the enactment of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act in 2005, the Federal Government has always made it clear that the TCN will not be privatized, but rather managed by a company with a requisite record in this field.
Furthermore Manitoba International is coming with only eight expatriate workers. The Nigerian employees of the TCN, including the top management staff, will not leave their current positions but will stay on as deputies and “shadows” to understudy the new managers and all gratuity payments will be made.
Meanwhile the Nigeria Labor Congress has also reacted to this issue in a statement calling for more dialogue between the Federal Government and the NUEE instead of this show of force.