Workers at the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) have suspended a strike that began on Wednesday and caused a nationwide blackout.

The grid capacity dropped to zero by 5:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) from 4,100 megawatts (MW) early on Wednesday, according to TCN.

By 9:50 p.m. (20:50 GMT) capacity was at just 35 MW.

However, after meeting with TCN management and the minister of power late Wednesday night, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) general secretary Joe Ajaero disclosed that the union would suspend the strike for two weeks which has already taken effect as power has been restored in some states.

The strike by the workers was triggered by the directive of the TCN Board that all Principal Managers in acting capacity must undergo promotion interviews.

The directive, NUEE said, “is in contravention of our conditions of service and career progression paths, unilaterally done without relevant stakeholders.”

Another grievance of the workers is the perceived “stigmatisation of staff from the office of the Head of Service, HoS, of the federation from working in other areas in the power sector, and the refusal of the market operator to fund the payment of entitlement of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Ex-PHCN, staff as agreed in December 2019 agreement after industrial action by the union.

The protesting workers had blocked the entrance to the TCN headquarters building in Abuja, when Vanguard visited.

Similar action took place in other TCN offices across the country.

The Abuja TCN’s head office houses the Federal Ministry of Power where the Minister of Power and the Minister of State, Power have their offices.

The striking workers locked out staff of the Ministry as well as both ministers and their aides.

In Port Harcourt, Rivers, the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHED, said the industrial action had disrupted its ability to supply power to several customers as its feeders and locations were shut down by the striking NUEE members.

PHED in a statement by John Anonyai, Head of Corporate Communications, said: “Due to the industrial action by NUEE, some of our feeders/locations have been shut down by the union, so we are unable to supply power to our esteemed customers from such feeders.”

Deputy General Secretary South-East and South-South Zone SSAEAC, Innocent Lord-Douglas, said members were directed to shut TCN operations over interference of board members.

He said: “We got directive from our national secretariat that all offices of TCN be locked up. And the reason is that the board that was recently set up is intervening in the administrative workings of the company.

‘’The board has its role, but it is now coming into the administrative section of the company, trying to organise promotion and promotion interviews.

“In the condition of service with the TCN, when one rises to the position of Principal Manager, you cannot write a promotion interview because whatsoever promotion one gets after then turns out to be an appointment. That is in our condition of service but the board does not want to listen.

“They want to humiliate and insult our members. We said no as we have a working document that guides management and the unions in charge in the industry. And the board has refused. We decided to shut down the industry to get back to where we are supposed to be.

“TCN is the aspect of the electricity sector that transmits the generated energy to distribution. If the grids are shut down, there would be n supply anywhere. We have given them two days to correct their anomalies. If the board does not comply, we are going to shut down this system.”

Reacting to the strike , many DISCOs, yesterday, apologised to their customers, explaining that the situation was beyond their control. Specifically, Eko Electricity Distribution Company, EKEDC, said its network was completely out of power.

Nigeria has struggled with poor electricity for decades. The government said on Wednesday it could not raise power generation to 5,000 megawatts as it promised in July as a result of gas supply problems.

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