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Drama As Electricity Workers Lock Out Minister Over Tariff Hike

There was mild drama on Monday at the Ministry of Power headquarters in Abuja as the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) stopped business activities there.

Members of NUEE and SSAEAC also locked out the Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, and other ministry workers, preventing them from accessing the Power House building in the Maitama District of Abuja.

The acting General Secretary of NUEE, Igwebike Dominic, said the power ministry shutdown would continue until the government listened to the union’s demands or called a meeting to address the issues.

“The shutdown of Power House is going to continue until they hold a meeting with the unions or meet the demands written in our letter to the minister,” he told Punch.

In the letter to Adelabu, jointly signed by both unions and dated May 20, 2024, the associations stated that the government took a unilateral and detrimental decision to liquidate TCN without consulting stakeholders.

The letter reads, “We are taken aback by the utmost disregard for the critical stakeholders in the power sector by you and your agency’s unilateral and detrimental decisions in the sector.

“We believe that all agencies, under your ministry, should key into your agenda and set goals by extension to the vision of this administration in seeing to a regular and sustainable power supply in the country. So, the disruption being engineered by NERC in the sector is not surprising, as there is no known agenda or vision for the power sector by your administration one year after the resumption of office.

“The unfortunate scenario playing out in the power sector points to the fact that you administer the sector like a personal estate with no consideration for the welfare and survival of the workers and the sector in general.

They accused the minister and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) of running the sector without recourse to critical stakeholders in the power industry since his assumption of office a year ago

The unions stated that the unilateral tariff increase to about 300 per cent was done without stakeholders’ dialogue, adding that the proposed review of workers’ salaries does not receive the desired considerations.

They described the move as provocative and unacceptable and vowed to vehemently resist any attempt to cede those infrastructures to cronies for political patronage.

They said: “The mischievous deduction of eight per cent of the revenue generated as technical losses from TCN is a political calculation to blackmail the company and its management to make it look inefficient is disheartening and would, in the long term, hurt the entire electricity value chain. This is highly unacceptable and cannot be sustained.

“The vexatious order from NERC on a monthly deduction of N2bn from the account of TCN is unrealistic and an attempt to run TCN down, portray the management as incompetent and take advantage of the failures for selfish political gains. We want a justified reason for such a humongous and unrealistic deduction.

“The illegal deduction of 46.7 per cent from TCN revenue (not even profit) for project execution for Discos; are the privatised companies not owned by private entities? What system of privatisation are we adopting? Our findings revealed that all these obnoxious orders from NERC are a conspiracy to grind the operations of TCN and then liquidate it. These are to prepare enough ground to unbundle it for selfish political gains by a few people.”

Tariff Hike Reversal

The unions also asked NERC must reverse the unilateral tariff increase implemented without consulting with critical stakeholders in the sector

“NERC must reverse the unilateral tariff increase implemented without consulting with critical stakeholders in the sector. The salaries of the workers in the sector must be reviewed.

“All obnoxious deductions from TCN must stop forthwith, and all deducted funds must be remitted back to TCN with immediate effect. Why these deductions, when revenue is required to strengthen the already aged and weak network that will guarantee stable and reliable energy supply?

“Henceforth, all staff in the sector will have electricity rebates (units) allocated to them as a standard practice. Gencos must not be given revenue generated from TCN and Discos until they allow the unionisation of their companies as provided by the Labour Act,” they noted.

Power Minister Reacts

In his reaction, the minister, through his media aide, Bolaji Tunji, told the newspaper that the ministry was handling the issue and that the permanent secretary would meet with unions to address their concerns.

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