Strike: House Meets with NUEE Thursday to Avert Blackout

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By Adedayo Akinwale ín Abuja

The leadership of the House of Representatives has resolved to meet with the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) by 2pm Thursday to avert the planned industrial action by the union in order to avoid impending blackout.

The House has also summoned the Ministers of Power, Saleh Mamman, and Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, as well as the Director General of Pension Commission, Aisha Dahir-Umar, to appear before the leadership of the House Thursday.

The resolution of the House followed the adoption of a motion moved by the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, on the urgent need for the federal government to interface with the managements of electricity companies.

Moving the motion, Okechukwu said that a petition dated November 7, 2019 was written to the Minister of Power by the NUEE and copied all distribution companies (Discos) and generating companies (Gencos) where the union warned and gave a 21-day ultimatum after which it would declare a nationwide strike.

The lawmaker said that the demands of the union included non-payment of salary arrears, remittance of pension deductions, refusal to pay over 2,000 disengaged workers of the ex-PHCN staff since 2013, underpayment of over 50,000 ex-PHCN staff, casualisation/outsourcing of workers, which are not met by the electricity companies.

He stressed that the union equally accused the Ministry of Power of failing to respond to their strike notification letter which expired on December 10, 2019.

He noted that the union, having exhausted every avenue for resolution of the dispute, has no other option than to withdraw its services without further notice.

The deputy minority leader expressed concern that the union’s resolve to go on strike without further notification came as a result of the information by a power sector consultant, Mrs. Rahila Thomas, wherein she stated that power Gencos and Discos direly need N1.2 trillion bailout to improve services.

He said that if this threat is carried out, the whole country would be plunged in total blackout and considering the consequential role which electricity plays, all sectors of the country, including the National Assembly, would incur severe economic losses, which he said would further impact the society negatively.

Okechukwu stated further that if this threat by NUEE is not immediately looked into and nipped at the bud, it would result in serious financial losses by both private and government establishment, as well as security challenges in our country.

In his contribution, the minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu, said that despite the country generating 4,000MW of electricity, without capacity to transmit all, he can’t imagine the impact of electricity blackout on the nation’s economy.

According to him, “I can’t imagine if the meagre 4,000MW we are generating is shut down. Imagine what will happen when the calamity befalls us as a result of somebody ignoring the warning the union gave. Mr. Speaker, I suggest that we engage them immediately.”

The speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, in his submission, said that there would be intended and unintended consequences that could only be imagined if there is total darkness.

“I think we should amend your prayers to invite the Minister of Power, Labour and DG of PenCom to meet with the leadership of the House 2:00pm tomorrow,” he said.

The green chamber also resolved to open back channel communication with the union ahead of Thursday’s meeting.

The House therefore urged the federal government to direct the Ministers of Power and Labour to amicably resolve all issues as raised by NUEE.