© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Blackout looms as electricity workers threaten to down tool
Demands Minister's sack
ELECTRICITY workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) on Wednesday, protested the presence of security operatives in their office premises across the country, threatening to suspend work activities nationwide.
The union, during a protest at the Ministry of Power, Abuja, held placards that stated their demands.
Comrade Wisdom Nwachukwu, who spoke on behalf of the demonstrators, disclosed that members of the union spread across the country got to their respective offices to meet security operatives waiting at the work premises.
Describing the action as militarisation of civil space, the electricity workers criticised the decision of Mamman Saleh, Minister of Power which led to the sack of Usman Muhammed, former Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
Mamman had on Tuesday 19th April, announced the removal of Muhammad as MD TCN, and replaced him, with Suleiman Abdulazeez. The new MD was appointed in Acting capacity, alongside four new Directors.
“While we commend our members for their response to the sad action of the minister, we urge them to remain on their work bits but should not fail to pull out should the work stations be militarised as witnessed in some locations today,” Comrade Ayodele Kolade, NUEE Zonal Organising Secretary stated in a document signed by Joe Ajaero, the General Secretary.
The union queried the rationale behind Muhammed’s removal amidst the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic, stressing that the purported feats so far achieved in the sector were courtesy of the outgone MD.
Recently appointed Acting Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria @TCN_NIGERIA, Engr. Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz and his management team have today resumed duty at the TCN HQ, Power House, Abuja. pic.twitter.com/RUoVlcVoJ3
— Office of the Minister of Power (@PowerMinNigeria) May 20, 2020
According to the labour union, the group had repeatedly expressed concerns on the idea of handling what it described as the ‘very sensitive,’ part of the nation’s power sector to Siemens, which had reportedly failed thrice in delivering the SCADA/EMS contract awarded to it.
“The Minister’s action which may have taken the power sector 30 years backward may not be unconnected with the impending Siemens contract racketeering which the Union has raised alarm to Nigerians but he is bent on reaping-off the people,” Kolade said.
They, however, challenged the minister to a public debate on national television, while questioning his capacity to really transform the sector.
Minister: Labour lacks right to cause blackout
In his reaction, Aaron Arithmas, Media Aide to the Minister told The ICIR that the Minister is at liberty to work with any person he deems fit to improve efficiency, stressing that the workers lack the right to suspend work.
Aaron said there was a protest, but it did not last for 30 minutes. According to him, the labour actions could not amount to a nationwide blackout as the power system involves a process from the Generation Companies to Transmission and Distribution Companies.
“…the DISCOS are the tactical end of where services are provided to consumers all over the country. You won’t tell me the protesters would report to DisCos and protest against the removal of TCN director,” he said.
“TCN is in charge of infrastructure and all transmission lines all over. Are they going to shut down the Gencos or Discos. Where are they going to shut down?” he queried.
Aaron who described the demonstration as insignificant, added that only the senior employees were against the MD’s appointment, adding that the junior workers were in support.
“As I speak to you, only the senior staffs are at work from level 14 or so. But there was no tension. The Police were there to quell tension to take precautionary measures. They didn’t attack anybody and nobody was attacked.”