As the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari clocks 100 days today, organised labour in the electricity sector has warned that the current power supply in the country is not sustainable even as it gives reasons Nigerians are experiencing improved power supply.
Speaking through the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, labour said the raining season, the President Muhammadu Buhari factor and steady supply of gas to power plants were the major reasons for the improved power supply.
The General Secretary of NUEE, Mr. Joe Ajaero, said: “During this time of the year, there is always a slight improvement in power supply because of the rise in water level. That is, the lake goes up and hydro power stations generate more power. Second is the Buhari factor which has made operator to sit up and added to that, before now, the gas pipelines were usually vandalized.
We suspect it may be in collaboration by some highly placed individuals who award contracts for the pipelines to be repaired which runs into billions of Naira. If the pipelines are vandalized and the contracts are awarded for repairs, almost every two months, it is big money for them. I think that because of the fear that those who engaged in the business may be caught, for now there is relative peace and the gas pipelines are delivering gas to the power plants. But we fear the current power situation may not be sustainable. Once the rainy season ends and the water level drops, there will be problem. Again, today all power being generated is being pumped into the system, there is no reserve in case of any break down, and there is no reserve in case of maintenance and so on. We ought to have reserve for emergencies. Sadly, we do not have that at the moment.”
Speaking on the recent NUEE face-off with Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHEDC, Ajaero said though the Department of State Service, DSS, and the police, attempted to wade in, they had nothing to do with industrial relations.
Ajaero warned that next time, the management of PHEDC would not find it easy, saying “Though the 18 successor companies have disdain for union, at least, in others, there is union management relationship. Though we don’t agree on a lot of issues, we meet and discuss, but PHEDC does not want to discuss. The next time we are biting them, we are going to bite them hard. This one is just an example. We went to Industrial Arbitration Panel, IAP, and the management said they were not going to respect the ruling of IAP. They wrote to us a letter that they had appealed to the National Industrial Court, NIC, but, till now, we have not seen the appeal. Nevertheless, the issues now are not the matters presented at IAP. They wanted to use that excuse of being in court to continue to perpetuate anti-labour practices.
“The current arrangement in the power sector makes it easier for us to select a place and deal with the issues there. Before now, it would have been a nationwide action. We have perfected our plan so that there could be power outage in Port Harcourt, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa without the action affecting other states. We feel sorry for the residents of these states plan who experienced power outage during the action, and we pray that we will not be forced to take a similar action again. If we take this action again, the management won’t see anyone to negotiate with. Electricity sector is a unionised sector.
“At privatisation, the first six months was a transition period from Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, to the new investors. What were transferred to new investors were the files of the workers and grades, only Port Harcourt claimed that the membership of the union was not transferred. Even for the six months that nobody was meant to talk, they did not pay their dues. None of the workers has withdrawn his membership of the union. The IAP told them to pay the dues they owed. Someone who was receiving N150, 000 before was paid N30, 000 and when they complained, the management sacked 30 of them. That is the level of impunity going on there. They sacked without discussion with the union. That impunity has to stop.”