Shutting national grid by striking workers was economic sabotage – analysts
Electricity workers under the aegis of the Nigerian Union of Electricity Workers (NUEE) on August 17, shut off the national grid plunging the entire nation into a blackout to protest what they described as poor conditions of service, an action some analysts say amounted to economic sabotage.
Under Nigerian industrial law, electricity workers are designated essential services and labour grievances excluded actions that will compromise electricity connections and infrastructure. The labour activists led by Joe Ajearo were seen in a viral video gleefully turning off the grid connections, prompting widespread condemnation.
“This is a playbook that has been used frequently, blackmailing the nation and the government, just to have a way for a very narrow selfish interest,” said Eyo Ekpo, a former commissioner at the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
Ekpo said the action of the labour union amounted to economic sabotage and wondered why the Nigerian government security agencies have not arrested the union members.
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“There is a procedure to be followed before a union decides to embark on industrial action.
“I do not see how the interest of promoting people in TCN outweighs the 12 million customers who are connected to the grid and have customers of about 70 to 80 million,” he said in a monitored interview on Arise News.
Sunday Oduntan, executive director, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, (ANED) agreed with Ekpo saying the situation caused economic losses for the numerous customers of the utilities.
According to Oduntan, Nigeria cannot continue to have a value chain where generation is largely private, distribution is 60 percent private, 40 percent government.
“It is time for the FG to think about giving up the TCN, and be managed by the private sector,” Oduntan said.
Electricity workers on the government-owned Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) embarked on a nationwide strike on August 16 based on claims the government reneged on an agreement to properly disengage some of their colleagues during the privatisation exercise and those due for promotions were subjected to write promotional examinations, which they said is against their terms of service.
Ekpo said these claims are untrue and that electricity workers were generously compensated during the privatisation exercise and were only holding the country to ransom because the current government is unpopular.