NUEE Strike: How Power Ministers Saved Nigeria From Total Blackout

On the 11th of December 2019, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) declared a general strike over the crisis in the power sector. The declaration was after a 21 days ultimatum issued for the crisis bordering on workers welfare to be resolved.

The workers had targeted December which is a holiday period and festive season for Christmas to throw the country into total darkness to press home their demands. 

However, the development was not allowed to snowball into a situation where the country's economic activities would be grounded for lack of of electricity ; thanks to the swift intervention by the Honourable Minister of State, Power, Goddy Jedy-Agba, OFR, at the time. 

In less than 24-hour after the strike declaration by the workers, the Minister proactively responded by engaging critical stakeholders from the unions, Bureau of Public Enterprise, Ministries of Finance, Labour, amongst others. 

His sincerity, proactiveness and willingness to provide his shoulder for others in the sector to lean on facilitated the suspension of the strike within just 48-hours. 

Almost two years later, history has repeated itself but this time, the Honourable Minister of Power, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu and Honourable Minister of State, Power, Jedy-Agba have rescued the situation howbeit, swifter than even the 2019 situation. 

Recall that, many Nigerians, especially those residing in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Monday witnessed a total blackout from the wee hours . Economic activities were grounded as workers both in public and private sectors had no access to electricity to work. Internet network was down. A few businesses that worked were those that were subjected to running generators. 

This development was not as a result of any problem with the national grid but another strike declaration by NUEE. Although the issues that prompted the strike this time were mainly with staff of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, (AEDC), the industrial action was going to spread across the country and affect every sector of the economy nay Nigerians. 

Central in the crisis that led to the declaration of industrial action by NUEE yesterday was the lingering dispute between employees of the AEDC and management of the company over unpaid entitlements. The workers had accused the management of AEDC of deliberately denying and withholding the legitimate entitlements of Staff. 

After several engagements with the AEDC management ended in deadlock, the umbrella body of electricity workers in the country, NUEE resolved to shutdown the country by embarking on indefinite strike action. 

But the Power Ministers, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu and Jedy-Agba, ensured that the situation was arrested and swiftly, too. 

Although, the Minister of Power was out of the country on official function, he was as worried about the situation as the Minister of State, who was on ground to lead the solution-finding team. The Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, Mr. Alex Okoli, Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprise, Sanusi Garba, Chairman of Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), were all instrumental to the swift resolutions reached. 

Telling, despite government not being directly responsible for the issues, the Ministry of Power which has supervisory rule over AEDC and others Distribution Companies (Discos) in the electricity sector needed to intervene in the interest of the public. 

Besides, whether government was responsible or not, the action or inaction of electricity workers both in government and private companies employ under the aegis of NUEE affects all Nigerian electricity consumers. 

Thus, from when the news filtered in on Sunday about the planned strike on Monday, the Honourable of Minister State issued a statement he personally signed, appealing to the union to jettison the strike action, as his Ministry was  engaging with relevant authorities with a view to finding lasting solution. 

The appeal however did not stop the union from declaration strike on Monday. But before the union even announced the strike action, the Minister had followed up his statement of appeal with marathon meetings and engagements with relevant stakeholders. 

Jedy-Agba who arrived his office at about 8:am yesterday, started meeting with different groups of stakeholders from 10:am in the morning till late in the evening to discuss the possible solutions to the issues. And expectedly, the intervention from the Ministry of Power yielded positive results. 

The last meeting convened by the Minister and held at the Ministers Conference Hall was attended by Mr. Alex Okoli, Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprise, Sanusi Garba, Chairman of Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Alex Olebe, representative of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Comrade Joe Ajaero, General Secretary, NUEE and Godfrey Aba, Chairman, NUEE, FCT Council. 

At the end of the meeting, all parties reached agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by all the aforementioned parties for the payment of outstanding entitlements of staff within 21 days starting from yesterday. Based on the agreement, the union suspended the strike, less than 24-hour from commencement. 

The Bureau of Public Enterprise also announced the initiative which was unanimously agreed in the meeting that the board and management of the AEDC steps aside for interim management to take charge of the runnings of the affairs of the company pending further action and conclusive decision by the federal government. 

The prompt intervention and the decisive action by the fedeal government have undoubtedly restored hope and reiterate the commitment of the Buhari's administration to continue with the reformation Engr. Aliyu and Jedy-Agba are championing in the power sector.

President Muhammadu Buhari 1150100359877303419

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