Fresh Electricity Workers’ Strike Looms as Unions’ Dispute Deepens

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Chineme Okafor in Abuja

Nigeria may experience another round of electricity blackout with the deterioration of trade union relationship between workers in the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and their national umbrella body, the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC).

According to a statement sent to THISDAY, the TCN branch of the SSAEAC are currently at loggerheads with their national leadership over alleged illegalities by the national body which they also accused of withholding about N25 million worth of their accumulated monthly checkoff dues.

Signed by the President of the TCN branch of SSAEAC, Mr. Abidemi Dairo, the workers alleged that the national body of the union withheld their 33-month checkoff dues and continued with an illegal leadership in an alleged disregard to the country’s trade union laws.

However, Dairo in the statement explained that trouble started when one Mr. Christopher Okonkwo who he said was a Principal Manager with the Ikeja electricity distribution company was sent to the TCN as a general manager by the ministry of power.

He alleged that Okonkwo was illegally brought into the TCN where he contested and became the President General of SSAEAC in 2015, but has since caused industrial disharmony in the transmission company.

According to him, the union informed the ministry of labour and employment in September 2019, about the situation with Okonkwo as a management official at TCN and that his leading the SSAEAC violated the Trade Union Act Cap. T14 Laws of the Federation, 2004 as amended.

The ministry, he noted claimed that it was unaware of that and promised to take action but has not done anything so far.

“The TCN union called on the ministry to act faster before the crisis degenerates,” Dairo said while stating that they were however focused on keeping the power sector operational.

He also alleged that Okonkwo has so far refused to remit their checkoff due, adding that, “he has refused to pay the checkoff dues of the TCN branch of SSAEAC for 33 months, all totaling about N25 million. Okonkwo also purportedly suspended the branch from the SSAEAC national which action is being challenged at the National Industrial Court.”

According to him: “He isn’t a staff of TCN, he has no appointment letter. He came from Ikeja Distribution. He was never an AGM before becoming a GM, against civil service norms and traditions pertaining to promotion and a career advancement.”

He stated that the Okonkwo-led SSAEAC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had attempted to picket the TCN offices across the country to disrupt their operations on May 13 and 14 2019 but the TCN workers refused to yield to their attempt.

“We were at the ministry of labour on the 7th of July 2019 to complain of the non-remittance of the check-off due rebate for over 33 months, about N25 million. The ministry rather mandated TCN management to continue payment in full to SSAEAC national with a promise to ensure remittance to TCN branch.

“The national has refused to pay the TCN branch her 50 per cent checkoff due rebate till date, despite recent N6.7 million payment by TCN to the national with evidence presented before the Permanent Secretary in the labour but to no avail. Our members are getting agitated, but the ministry is still ignoring us,” he informed.