03 January 2017, Abuja – Workers of the Transmission Company of Nigeria on Wednesday grounded activities at the firm’s Abuja headquarters for some hours in protest against the alleged removal of the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Abubakar Atiku, by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
The workers, who carried various placards urging the minister not to destroy the power sector, gathered at the entrance to the TCN building singing solidarity songs against the alleged move by Fashola.
The TCN had at a press briefing before the protest stated that the power market owed it about N100bn as arrears of wheeling charges.
The debt, according to the TCN, arose largely as a result of the poor performance of the power distribution companies with respect to revenue collection.
It was observed that the protesting workers refused to work for about two hours, as they explained that last week, Fashola asked the TCN managing director to hand over to a new transitional chief executive officer, Mr. Usman Mohammed, without following laid down procedures.
Speaking on behalf of the workers, the Abuja Chapter Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees, Mr. Wisdom Nwachukwu, read a letter that was signed by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mr. Louis Edozien, and dated January 31, 2017, which was addressed to the Minister of Finance requesting for the secondment of Mohammed as the transitional CEO of TCN with effect from February 1, 2017.
Nwachukwu stated that this was refuted by the two unions at the TCN, as he argued that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed Fashola to stay action on the move to remove Atiku, adding that the current boss of the transmission company was more competent than Mohammed.
He said, “We are against the impunity perpetuated by Fashola and his permanent secretary, and we will resist this with the last drop of our blood. Between the minister and the President, who runs this country? Why should the minister flout an express order from the President on this matter?
“Also, how can you bring an accountant to come and run a technical company like the TCN and ask a competent engineer to leave office for someone who, even if promoted to the highest level in this company, will not exceed the post of an assistant general manager? This will not happen and if they think they can force their way, we will show them what we are made of.”
However, the Special Assistant to Fashola on Media, Mr. Hakeem Bello, told our correspondent that after speaking with the permanent secretary on the matter, it was established that the basis for the protest by the unions was unnecessary as there had been plans by the Federal Government to restructure the TCN following the exit of Manitoba Hydro International.
“The memo that recommended that the contract of Manitoba be allowed to lapse also recommended that there should be a reversion plan that will allow the TCN to perform to its optimum structure,” Bello stated.
He added that the memo was also taken to the President, notifying him that after the exit of Manitoba, there would be a period of restructuring and that someone from one of the international financiers of the TCN would have to come and rectify the non-technical, financial and managerial issues.
“The person was sent on secondment as an interim CEO for the TCN from the African Development Bank to rectify a lot of the non-technical, managerial and financial issues preventing the TCN as an organisation from functioning to its peak levels. He has a clear mandate to restructure and address a lot of the issues affecting the company,” Bello added.
Before the protest by the TCN workers, Atiku had told journalists that the power distribution companies were not collecting enough revenue to drive the industry and that this was severely limiting the operational performance of the sector.
He said, “Payment for TCN services in the market has gone down from 55 per cent to 30 per cent in the recent past, and with that, funds coming to the TCN in the form of revenue have also reduced.
“It will interest you to note that the TCN was being paid an average of 33 per cent of the total invoice sent to the Market Operator between January and September 2016, which further reduced to 27 per cent in the month of November 2016.”