Nationwide blackout looms as TCN locks out workers

20 April 2016, Abuja – The Transmission Company of Nigeria on Wednesday locked out workers from its headquarters in Abuja over a disagreement with the management and the Federal Ministry of Power, spiking fears that the nation may be plunged into a total blackout in the coming days.

It was gathered that the workers were denied entry into the headquarters of the TCN when they arrived for work in the morning as armed mobile police officers had taken over the premises.

A senior executive of the company told our correspondent that operations were grounded at the TCN as a result of the development and stressed that if the situation was not addressed immediately, it would negatively affect the power value chain.

“Of course, the TCN headquarters is where a lot of transmission activities are being coordinated and directives are given; a few of these transmission activities are also being implemented here. So, grounding activities at the TCN headquarters is not good at all for the entire power value chain, because it may lead to blackout in most parts of the country,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter, said.

On what led to the locking out of the workers by armed police officers, the official stated that the disagreement between the staff of the company and the Federal Government on issues of severance payment for some workers after the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria was privatised, among others, prompted the closure of the firm on Tuesday.

He said, “There are a lot of issues; some workers are complaining that they have not been paid and so they stopped the Permanent Secretary of the Power ministry, Louis Edozien, from trying to take over some offices in the building recently. During the process, there were series of altercations, which almost degenerated into a brawl.

“Also, the workers are of the view that the government had failed to keep to some of the agreements it reached with them, and as a result, insisted that the headquarters of the defunct PHCN, which currently houses the TCN, cannot be given to the ministry. This was fiercely fought against by the permanent secretary, but he met a stiff resistance from the workers.”

Confirming these, the Chairman, National Union of Electricity Employees, Abuja, Mr. Wisdom Nwachukwu, told our correspondent that the workers decided to vacate the TCN headquarters on Tuesday when they saw that the premises had been taken over by armed officers.

He stated that the disagreement with the ministry on issues of workers’ welfare had to be settled before it would be allowed to take over the building.

“After series of meetings, we reached agreements, but none of the agreements has been met. We made this known to the permanent secretary and instead of looking for ways to settle the issue, he decided to storm the headquarters with armed officers, who locked the workers outside,” Nwachukwu stated.

On whether the shutdown of the headquarters would not affect power supply across the country, Nwachukwu said, “The armed officers were deployed here on Monday night and they arrived around 12 midnight. We can’t access the building and therefore we can’t work. If we can’t work, and you know the importance of the TCN headquarters to transmission, then you should know the impact that this will have on the power system generally.”

When contacted, officials of the Power ministry told our correspondent that the matter was a labour issue and that it was being handled by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, insisting that it would not affect power supply.

“The issue will be resolved fast and I doubt if it will drag on for more than one day. So, I doubt if it will lead to nationwide power supply disruptions, because the Labour ministry held a meeting with them today (Tuesday), and the meeting will continue tomorrow (Thursday),” an official of the ministry said.

 

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