*NLC stages rally, opposes oil deregulation
By Tony Edike
ENUGU – THE General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Comrade Joe Ajaero, today, gave an indication of imminent general strike in the power sector saying if the 150 percent salary increase demanded by the workers was not paid, they will have no option than to shut down all offices of the company nationwide.
Ajaero, who addressed PHCN workers at the Enugu Distribution Zonal Headquarters on his way to the Mass Rally held by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) as well as Civil societies in Enugu , said that the two-day strike earlier in the week was suspended because the union was dragged to the Industrial Arbitration Court by the Ministry of Labour.
He said that the Labour Ministry and the Management of PHCN had gone to court yesterday to vacate the order to the pave the way for further discussion with the union on their demand for 150 percent pay rise.
The NUEE General Secretary said the union initially demanded for 250 percent pay rise for workers in the sector, but that the management agreed to pay N150 percent and went ahead to sign an agreement with the workers.Â The management later reneged on the agreement forcing the workers to declare the short-lived industrial action.
Ajaero, who insisted that the PHCN is capable of paying even more than the contentious 150 percent wage increase, revealed that out of the N7 billion the Internally Generated Revenue being generated by the company on monthly basis, N6 billion was remitted to Independent Power Producers (IPP) even when they are not generating energy for now.
At a rally held by the NLC at the Government House, Enugu, President of the union, ComradeÂ Abdulwaheed Omar, said the labour leaders wereÂ in Enugu to deliver a letter to Governor Sullivan Chime as Chief Executive of Enugu State for onward transmission to the president but regretted that the governor refused to welcome them.
Omar said he had earlir led the labour leaders to four other states namely Bornu, Lagos, Kano and Ebonyi to present their letter conveyingÂ their opposition to the Federal Governmentâ€™s decision to deregulate the downstream sector as well as the demand for reintroduction of the Udoji salay award whereby all workers in the country would enjoy the same salary structure.
â€œWe have before today visited fourÂ other states namely Bornu, Lagos, Kano and Ebonyi. While two state governors came out and received their own letters, two others were not available at the time of our visit.Â It is rather unfortunate that even when Governor Sullivan Chime was present, he declined to receive us and we hereby ask the workers and the general electorate in Enugu State to take note of this insult, which goes to show that the governor insensitive to the plights of the masses,â€ Omar said.
Mr. Chuka Utazi, Senior Special on Labour and Assembly matters who wanted to speak on behalf of the governor at the rally was rejected just as they jeered Paul Nnajiofor who also tried to defend the governor for being absent at the event.
In the same vein, the aggrieved workers prevented the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Martin Ilo from addressing the rally as they insisted that only Governor Chime was eligible to welcome them.
Omar expressed regrets over the attitude of some elected publicÂ officers who turned their back against those that elected them and called on the workers to reject such officers in the next elections.
Declaring that the workers must pursue their â€œlegitimate demandsâ€ until they were met, adding that similar rally would be held in other states across the country.
The labour leaders and hundreds of workers drawn from the state sang some anti-government songs and danced for some minutes before leaving the Government House.