The strike began midnight on Tuesday following expiration of the 21-day notice issued by the workers.
Employees of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Osogbo, the Osun State capital, said they had shut down the facility in compliance with the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) directive.
The facility in Osogbo hosts the National Control Centre (NCC). The NCC in Osogbo is responsible for all Transmission Company of Nigeria’s (TCN’s) grid operations, monitoring and control of the transmission network.
General Secretary of NUEE Joe Ajaero said on Wednesday: “As you can see, power has dropped across the nation and will continue like that unless the government responds to our demands.
”We are open to dialogue and as I speak to you, we have been invited to a meeting with the minister of state for Power.”
The House of Representatives summoned the Minister of Power Saleh Mamman and his Labour and Employment counterpart, Chris Ngige.
They are to appear before the lawmakers along with the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and other stakeholders.
The Minister of Power has also invited the NUEE leadership to a meeting today.
The workers picketed the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Power in Abuja.
The workers stopped Minister of Power Saleh Mamman from gaining access into his office.
Staff of the ministry were denied access to the office by the protesting union.
Chairman, NUEE, Federal Capital Territory chapter, Godfrey Aba, said the workers were at the ministry to protest the non-payment of severance packages to members who were employees of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
Aba said that over two thousand of their members were affected by the unbundling of the PHCN by the Federal Government, noting that the ex-PHCN workers were yet to collect their full entitlements.
The union insisted that the minister should address their demands without further delay.
He said: “We have a lot of issues. One, over 50, 000 of disengaged PHCN employees that were short paid, up till now have not been addressed. About 2,000 of disengaged PHCN employees have not been paid their severance (package).
“As I speak to you, some Generating Companies (GENCOs) have refused unionisation. Some of the GENCOs have prevented union officials from entering their premises. Many Distribution Companies (DISCOs) are paying half salaries.
“Some of the DISCOs are not remitting the pension of their workers. Some DISCOs as I speak to you, have no condition of service. We cannot continue to operate like that.
“The minister is aware of most of these issues. We have written to the minister, we have sought his audience but nothing has been done.
“We are here to take what belongs to us. We are here to claim our right. That is why we shut this place down today.
“This is the office of the minister of power and we say the minister will not enter this office until our demands are met.”
Visitors and workers of TCN were locked out of the premises of the facility.
Another NUEE officer Segun Babatunde said: “Our action is the consequence of the government keeping mute over the industrial issues we have raised several times and those issues have remained unattended up to this moment.
“We believe that we should be able to put our demands on the table and negotiate with a view to achieving results at end of the day. If you now communicate with government and the government is not saying anything on the issues we are raising, we don’t have any other option than to call out workers on strike.”
Power firms said there will be a disruption to services as a result to the work boycott.
In Lagos, the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC) said: “It is important to state that the grievances of the union are not specific to Ikeja Electric, but directed at the Federal Government and the entire power sector.
“However, due to the strike, there may be a disruption of services across the network.
“Ikeja Electric is working with the Federal Government and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that the industrial action is called off and there will be a resumption of services to our esteemed customers.”
The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), promised to supply power to consumers in spite of the strike.
AEDC General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr. Oyebode Fadipe, urged customers seeking to purchase electricity vouchers to patronize the online vending platform and third party sellers.
The Spokesman, Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC), Mr Godwin Idemudia, said the issue is impacting negatively on operation of the energy distributors. He urged stakeholders to resolve the issue.
He said: “Obviously, the strike would affect supply of electricity in the country. If the power generation companies do not give electricity to distribute, there won’t be anything to give our customers. However, we would try as much as possible to meet the growing needs of our customers. That is my personal opinion. The issue has a much wider dimension as it is between the government and the union. The earlier they reached an agreement on issues, which caused the strike, the better for the industry.
The decision of the House of Representatives to summon Ngige, Mamman and the the National Pension Commission boss arose following a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Toby Okechukwu, that the strike could lead to untold economic hardship if allowed to continue.
He expressed concern that the resolve of the workers to go on with the strike without further notification came as a result of the information by a power sector consultant, Mrs. Rahila Thomas, that GenCos and DisCos were in dire need of N1.2 trillion bailout to improve their services.
Okechukwu said, ”If this threat is carried out, the whole country will be plunged in total blackout and considering the consequential role which electricity plays and the dependence upon electricity by all sectors of the economy, including the National Assembly, there will be severe economic losses, which will further impact our society negatively.”
He added that there was an urgent need for the Federal government to interface with the management of electricity companies and NUEE on the matters raised by the workers.
He said there was a petition by the union dated November 7th, 2019 to the Minister of Power which was also sent to all DisCos and GenCos .
The lawmakers said in the petition, NUEE gave a 21 day ultimatum that its members would declare a nationwide strike if their demands which 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, were not met.
Another lawmer, Ndudi Elumelu, said there was no guarantee that the nation could effectively distribute 100MW of electricity daily.
He said the distribution companies presently do not have the capacity to distribute the 4,000MW being generated.
Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, after the contributions by some members, directed the Clerk to invite Ngige, Mamman, the PENCOM boss, the electricity workers union and other stakeholders to a meeting by 2pm today.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has called for caution over the union’s strike.
NECA Director-General Dr. Timothy Olawale, said there was no gainsaying that electricity was the bedrock of national development.
“The challenges faced by operators in the sector are there for all to see. Therefore, it is expected that all hands should be on deck to support investors to surmount these challenges for the good of our nation,” he said.