Reps summon Ministers of Power, Labour over Power sector crisis

• Urge Union to give room for NASS' intervention

The House of Representatives on Wednesday summoned the Minister of power,  Alhaji Saleh Mamman and his Labour and Employment counterpart, Dr Chris Ngige over the looming industrial crisis in the nation’s electricity sector

The  Electricity Workers’ Union had issued a 21-day ultimatum over unpaid benefits to disengaged employees of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), as well as the improved condition of services by their current employer’s failure which it threatened a total blackout in the power sector.

The resolution followed the adoption of a motion moved by Hon Tobi Okechukwu at the plenary.

While moving the motion, Hon Okechukwu, who is the deputy Minority Leader noted that a petition dated November 7th, 2019 was written to the Minister of Power by the National Union Of Electricity Employees, and copied to all DISCOS and GENCOS, where the Union warned and gave a 21-day ultimatum, that they will declare a nationwide strike if their demands were not met.

According to him, the demands include: “Non-payments of salary arrears, remittance of pension deductions, refusal to pay over 2000 disengaged workers of the EX-PHCN staff since 2013, underpayment of over 50,000 EX-PHCN staff, casualization/outsourcing of workers, are not met by the electricity companies

“The workers under the auspices of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) accused the Ministry of Power of failing to respond to their strike notification letter which expires the 10th day of December 2019 and the Union having exhausted every avenue for resolution at the dispute, has no other option than to withdraw services without further notice.

“Their resolve to go on with the strike without further notification came as a result of the information by a power sector consultant, Mrs Rahila Thomas, wherein she stated that power generating companies (GENCOS) and distribution companies (DISCOS) direly need 1.2 trillion naira bailout to improve services.

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“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 country including the National Assembly, there will be severe economic losses, which will further impact our society negatively.

“Nigeria as a member of the international labour organisation (ILO) has ratified over 40 international labour conventions and has through the Nation Assembly enacted Labour among other labour laws, by Which Nigeria swore to protect the right of workers in the country.

“Section 17 of the 1999 constitution provides that every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law and that exploitation of human or natural resources in any form whatsoever for reasons other than for the good of the community, shall be prevented and most importantly, that there should be equal pay for equal work without any form of discrimination.”

He cautioned further saying: “If this threat by NUEE is not immediately looked into and nipped at the bud, it will result into serious financial losses by both private and government establishment and as well as security challenges in our country.”

The Minority Leader, Hon  Ndudi Elumelu, in his contribution noted that: “One of the critical points in our legislative agenda is to ensure that there’s electricity for our people and that we must work to ensure a better life for our people, which include these aggrieved and disengaged ex-workers

“We’re also not sure that the distribution network that we have can distribute whatever the transmission network evacuate from the Gencos

“We read newspapers and see people carrying placards and warning that they are going on strike if their grievances are not addressed. And if we wait for such a calamity as a nationwide-total blackout to befall us, then it will be very unfortunate. For crying out loud, for somebody somewhere to ignore the 21 days warning and ultimatum given, is, to say the least, disastrous.”

Speaking on the development, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon  Femi Gabajabiamila, noted that the 21 days ultimatum given by the Union expired (today) yesterday.

He, therefore, moved for an amendment to the prayers saying that the Ministers of Power, Labour and Employment, as well as director-general of the National Pension Commission (PenCom), be made to appear before the House on today (Thursday by 2:pm).

The House also invited the Union to attend the interface with the ministers so as to see how areas of differences can be resolved with a view to saving the people the socio-economic hardship of living in total blackout.

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