FG Allays Fears of Blackout as Electricity Workers’ Union Suspends Strike

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By Paul Obi in  Abuja

The Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has denied as untrue that there was a directive by the leadership of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) to Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), members to stay away from work which raised fears of a nation-wide blackout.

However, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) yesterday said they were suspending the ongoing strike over militarisation of TCN offices in the country following  the intervention of Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, which prompted them to return to work.

A statement from Mr. Timothy Oyedeji, the Director of Press to the Minister of Power, Mr. Raji Fashola SAN, the Ministry, after consulting the management of TCN had to make the clarification that there was no declaration of industrial dispute by NUEE, nor any lawful notice of strike action against TCN.

“Therefore no staff of TCN has any legitimate cause to absent him or herself from duty. The Ministry is fully aware that the Nigeria Police initiated heightened security measures at the PHCN Headquarters building at 14,  Zambezi Crescent Maitama, which is also the head office of TCN. The heightened security became necessary as a result of a series of security breaches in the building by persons who claimed to be carrying out the instructions of NUEE, some of whom were not identified by TCN as their staff. The most recent incident was targeted at officers of the Nigeria Police Force who were in the building on official assignments, and accompanied by officials of the Ministry.

“The heightened security measures are not meant to lock out any official of TCN or any member of the public who has legitimate business with TCN. The NPF put the measures in place to protect Federal Government facilities and operations. The measures are also meant to ensure the building is accessible only to persons who are authorized to be in the building by TCN or the Ministry. The measures were put in place by NPF to secure a safe working environment for all TCN and Ministry staff in the building, including any staff of TCN who happens to be NUEE member.

“The Ministry has confirmed from TCN that appropriate contingencies are being put in place to safeguard the national grid to avert any unnecessary inconvenience and suffering for its customers and the Nigerian public.

“The Ministry has also confirmed from TCN that any member of staff who absents him or herself from work without a legitimate reason should be prepared to forego any compensation for the period of such absence and to face the disciplinary processes that govern his or her employment contract with TCN”, Oyedeji said.

 The union had following what it termed militarisation/lockout of TCN offices, downed tools in addition to some unresolved issues in the 2012 agreement, requiring that “Labour issues be concluded before the winding down of the headquarters of the PHCN,” directed its members to withdraw their services.