By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Civil Society Organisations, CSO, Thursday, urged the Federal Government to properly dialog with electricity workers under the auspices of National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, to avert proposed strike as the country cannot afford another economic loss.
Speaking on the development with Vanguard, the CSOs expressed concern that the issue of dialogue should be paramount and be treated in a constructive manner, which both parties could reach the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, said the federal government should try as much as possible to engage the leadership of the electricity union to avert degeneration of the problem.
It would be recalled that the union had on January 29, 2020, issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Ministry of Power to pay over 2,000 workers that were disengaged from the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria.
According to the union leaders the Ministry had not implemented the agreement both parties arrived on December 11, 2019.
Rafsanjani said: “I think it is only fair for the government to engage in constructive and positive dialogue with Nigerian workers for structural, facility reforms and meaningful wages for the workers, the idea of always dismissing credible workers’ concern should stop.
“The country is not meeting up with the required power generation and allowing this crisis to escalate would result in more darkness. Therefore we need to urgently avoid further degeneration of this problem because there will be huge implications for the nation.
“If the problem between the workers and the government is not resolved there will be economic losses which will render many people unemployed, especially the small scale business activities, again there will be an escalation of criminal activities in the absence of light,
“I, therefore, urge both the government and the workers to make and resolve their concerns.”
Also speaking on the issue, the Convener, the Coalition In Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, cautioned the government to fulfill its part of any agreement reached with the workers, if not it will pose a grave danger to the country’s economy and also worsen the worrisome state of insecurity.
“As Federal Government fails to meet the demands of electricity workers, despite promises to meet their demands on February 1 or 2, 2020. Remember, they embarked on strike in 1st week of January 2020 that led to the 2020 first grid collapse.
“Electricity is security and any attempt to proceed on strike by electricity workers means the security of the entire country is totally at stake and threatened.
“This is not the undoing of the electricity workers but that of a government that has to continue to falter and default in agreements reached with the workers”, Atoye stated.
He also called on the National Assembly to wade into the matter to nip it at the bud.
“I urge the National Assembly, the Governors’ Forum and other stakeholder to intervene since we are operating a centralized National Electricity Grid that will affect almost everyone.
“It is immaterial whether electricity is on the exclusive list, we must come to the reality that desperate challenges certainly demand desperate measures. We cannot leave this to the federal government alone to solve”, he said.
He also added that “Lack of electricity will not only cripple the economy, but it will also undermine the entire country and worsen insecurity in the entire country. It is important for the government to understand the socio-economic implications of failing to honour agreements.”
However, the National Coordinator, Grassroots Empowerment and Justice, GEJ Initiative, Ebriku John Friday, said it is not always the best option for civil servants to embark on strike, because it is not the way forward neither the last the best approach to present issues affecting workers, but dialogue.
Friday said, “Strike is never the way forward, yet it’s the last resort for trade unionism to force authorities to respond to worker’s plight and in this case the nation’s electricity workers, but dialogue remains the best approach to the resolution of the trade dispute.
“I also appeal to the workers to try and exhaust all channels of dialogue with the Federal Government before dangling the last resort to the down tool. They should remember the impact on hospitals, industries, and other service-based organisation whose functionality hugely depend on electricity.
“The country cannot afford another nightmare of total blackout arising from the collapse of the electricity grid. The economic loss is quite huge and I appeal to the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency step in and douse the tension, meet with the leaders of the electricity workers and find a middle ground to their germane demands. Let this affliction not repeat again the second time.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, on Monday met leaders of NUEE in Abuja over the 14-day ultimatum issued by the union.