Soldiers take over power stations in Nigeria

Victor Ahiuma-Young
& Naomi Mgbakor

15 November 2011, Sweetcrude, LAGOS — Armed soldiers, Tuesday, took over most of Nigeria’s power stations, including Egbin Power Station, following threats by workers of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to withdraw their services.

This came as the State Security Service (SSS) invited the President and General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), the umbrella body for one of two unions in the power sector, Comrades Mansur Musa and Joe Ajaero, respectively to Abuja for a chat Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a statement by the Power Ministry said soldiers would be deployed any moment from now to join policemen in guarding PHCN facilities across the nation.

Sweetcrude gathered that at Sapele and some other stations, there were clashes between workers and the armed soldiers.

The military takeover may not be unconnected with the controversy trailing reported physical due diligence being conducted on the power stations and installations by Dangote and 134 other power firms.

However, organised labour in the sector had dismissed the report and declared that there was no due diligence on the power stations.

Some of the power stations and distributions taken over by the soldiers are Sapele; Olorunsogbo in Ondo State; NCC Osogbo; Egbin; transmission stations in Gombe, Bauchi State; Ikeja West in Lagos; Ganmo in Ilorin; Birni Kebbi; Mando in Kaduna; Kano; Ayede in Ibadan and distribution stations in Doka; Gwiwa in Sokoto State; Osogbo in Osun State amongst numerous others.

Soldiers to assist police

The deployment, according to informed sources, is sequel to recent advice by the intelligence community to the Nigerian government to enhance security at “critical infrastructural facilities in Nigeria” as a result of the threat to national security by the extremist Islamic sect popularly known as Boko Haram, which wants the introduction of Sharia law all over Nigeria and regards western education as forbidden.

Troops from the Army, Navy and Air Force are to guard especially PHCN’s transmission and generation facilities, revealed sources in the office of the National security Adviser, General Andrew Aziza (rtd), himself a former Director of Military Intelligence and Chief of Army Staff.

The Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, was on Sunday night informed of the Federal Government’s decision to deploy troops to protect the facilities and the workers, according to his Special Adviser, C. Don Adinuba, who added that “the minister has accordingly informed the PHCN Chief Executive, Engr. Hussein Labo, and the CEOs of the 18 PHCN successor companies, as well as stakeholders like the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies and the National Union of Electricity Employees of the development.”

Meanwhile, the Lagos/ Ogun Chapter of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) on Tuesday said that its members decided to go on strike to protest the deployment of soldiers to PHCN facilities.

Mr Mbang Etukube, Chairman of the chapter, in telephone interview in Lagos said that the protest would continue until the directive was reversed.

Etukube said that the deployment of soldiers to PHCN facilities was another way of distracting the workers.

“This is another way of dealing with workers by engaging soldiers to take over PHCN facilities across the country.

“Government should reverse the directive so that we can go back to our lawful duties as PHCN workers,’’ he said.

Mr Chris Akamnonu, Chief Executive Officer of Ikeja Electricity Distribution Zone, told NAN that the strike would affect PHCN operations in the zone.

Akamnonu said that official notices should have been given to the management in the zones before the workers embarked on the strike.

He said that the gates to PHCN offices in the zone were shut on Tuesday morning by the workers without any formal notice.

“I really don’t know what is happening, but I have called the leaders of the union for briefing because locking the gates will drastically affect our operations.

“This will affect some of our customers who come to complain and pay bills. We hope this will be resolved urgently,’’ he said.

Mrs Efuru Igbo, PHCN General Manager (Public Affairs), however, said that the workers in Abuja were not on strike.

“Nothing like strike is happening here in Abuja; we are working.

“We hope that workers in other states will follow suit because we don’t understand what the strike is all about,’’ she said.

Mr Cdon Adinuba, Special Adviser on Media to the Minister of Power, said that the ministry would issue an official statement on the development.

“I don’t want to speak on this now because the ministry will later in the day, (Tuesday) issue an official statement on the matter,” he said.

NAN recalls that the Ministry of Power, had on Monday, deployed soldiers to assist police in safeguarding PHCN facilities nationwide.

The deployment was sequel to an advice from the intelligence agencies that government should beef up security in “critical infrastructural facilities in Nigeria”. (NAN)

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