Electricity workers call off strike, businesses count losses - PUNCH
Businesses and other power consumers were thrown into darkness on Wednesday as the industrial action embarked upon by electricity workers, which lasted for almost one day, led to the total shutdown of the national power grid.
Power generation crashed fell below 4,000 megawatts as workers of the National Union of Electricity Employees went on strike to protest against a compulsory promotion interview for principal managers, unpaid entitlement, among other issues.
Although the Federal Government announced on Wednesday night that the union had halted the strike, it had earlier declared that the action by the electricity workers resulted in a collapse of the country’s grid.
“Following the industrial dispute declared by the two in-house unions at the Transmission Company of Nigeria, the national electric power grid has been shut down by union functionaries – even as unfettered effort was being made to resolve the issues upon which the action was called,” the government stated in a statement from its power transmission company.
It added, “The incident occurred at 15:01hours today (Wednesday) after several 330kV transmission lines and 33kV feeder-lines across the power system network had been switched off by the union members, resulting in generation-load imbalance and multiple voltage escalations at critical stations and substations.
“Regrettably, this is coming weeks after we had emerged from a hectic grid management regime, precipitated by paucity of generation, which we grappled with for a couple of months.”
The PUNCH observed that the development resulted in blackout across the country, as virtually all power distribution companies confirmed this in various statements.
Eko Electricity Distribution Company, for instance, stated that at 3:01pm on Wednesday, the country recorded its 7th system collapse, which caused total blackout in Lagos State.
Other power distributors including Ikeja, Enugu, Benin, Ibadan, among others, also informed their customers of the power disruption.
The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company Plc (EEDC) announced power supply disruption within the South-East due to the strike by electricity workers.
The distribution company disclosed this in a statement issued on Wednesday, through its Head, Corporate Communications, Emeka Ezeh, which was made available to our correspondent in Enugu.
“Following the industrial strike embarked upon by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) at the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) power stations, operations across the franchise area of EEDC plc have been disrupted.
“As a result of this development all our feeders are out of supply and this has affected supply to our esteemed customers in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States,” he said.
Ikeja DisCo, in its own public notice, said, “Dear esteemed customer, due to the ongoing nationwide picketing of transmission stations by the NUEE, we are currently experiencing disruption of power supply as most stations within our network have been shut down.”
The NUEE had on Monday threatened to picket the headquarters of TCN over unmet demands of its workers.
The union also stated that the Federal Government had failed to pay the entitlements of some former staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria despite an agreement reached with the union in December 2019.
In a circular entitled “Call to Action”, the General Secretary of NUEE, Joe Ajaero, directed members of the union to ensure total compliance, vowing to paralyse the operations of TCN nationwide over anti-masses activities.
The Chief Executive Officer, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprises and immediate past Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Muda Yusuf, said the shutdown of Nigeria’s power grid had piled more pressure on businesses across the country.
He explained that businesses and other users of electricity were already suffering untold hardship caused by the hike in diesel price and the crash of the naira against the dollar, stressing that the collapse of the national grid due to workers’ strike would make things worse.
The Federal Government announced on Wednesday night that the strike embarked upon by the electricity worker, which led to the total shutdown of Nigeria’s power grid and nationwide blackout, had ended.
It announced this in a statement issued in Abuja by the Head, Press and Public Relations, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun.
The statement read in part, “The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has apprehended the strike embarked upon by NUEE following an emergency meeting between the union, government and other stakeholders, at the instance of the minister.
“At the end of the meeting, the Secretary-General of NUEE, Joe Ajaero, assured the minister that all necessary steps would be taken to restore the supply of electricity to the country immediately.”
Ngige also stated that the ministry would set up a committee to look into the grievances of the labour union.
Ajaero, however, could not be reached for confirmation.
Also, the President, LCCI, Mr. Gabriel Idahosa, said the strike had escalated the downward trend prevalent in the economy.
“The recent inflation rate of 19 per cent could quickly spike beyond 20 per cent if the strike is prolonged and all economic operators spend much more on diesel and petrol.
“The late evening and night market economy which sustain many small and micro enterprises will be drastically reduced. It may also be the last straw that will break the back of small businesses that are struggling with the very harsh economic conditions.
“A quick end of the strike will be necessary to avoid other collateral risks, including challenges in security due to widespread darkness in highways and neighborhoods.”
On his part, the President, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, John Udeagbala, stated that it was a pity that despite the problems currently dragging the industrial and manufacturing sectors backwards, “we still have to add total blackout to the challenges.”
He said, “The loss will be unquantifiable because of the multiplier effect of not producing. The losses will trickle down the entire value chain. People will lose their jobs, and revenue.
“On the socioeconomic side too, we will have a lot of social ills, insecurity will increase. The 19 per cent current inflation rate will spike because already, prices of goods are getting out of hand. The country is going through hard times already.
“There is widespread inflation because people cannot bring out goods, and the blackout will ground operations due to the high cost of diesel. The country will run into more problems, and we are sorry because it is the private sector that is bearing the brunt of all these problems.”