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Ikeja residents groan over power outage, union suspends picketing

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Residents of Ikeja area of Lagos State have urged the unions in the electricity sector to intervene in the incessant power failure that is afflicting the area.The union of electricity workers under the auspices of Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) had on Wednesday last week picketed and shutdown the headquarters of Ikeja Electric (IE) over allegation of deliberately hoarding prepaid meters meant for distribution to customers amid deteriorating power supply.

Led by its Secretary General, Joe Ajaero, the union accused IE of engaging in anti-labour activities, including its continued sacking of workers. Ajaero said the maltreatment of workers by the electricity firm has lingered for over two years without consideration for conducive working conditions.

The union alleged among other things the arbitrary dismissal of workers without consultations with the union, poor welfare, uneven salary structure, adoption of anti-labour policies and frustration of the implementation of service conditions.The union further queried the distribution company over its seeming inability to deliver steady power supply to Nigerians at corresponding rates of consumption, adding that the hoarding of prepaid meters has created opportunity to rip-off consumers through estimated billing.

Speaking with The Guardian, a resident, Mrs Nkechi Odinaka urged the electricity company to address its differences with the workers so restore electricity back to the vicinity.“For almost a week now, we have been living in darkness. I initially thought they were carrying out repairs not until I learnt workers picketed and shut down operations. It is so alarming,” she said.

Similarly, another electricity consumer, Taiwo Ogun, berated the distribution company for not taking care of the welfare of its workers after the huge money it is ripping off from the zone through estimated billings.

“We have written on several occasions requesting for prepaid meters, but we are yet to be issued, as they are hoarding it, so that we will continue to pay their estimated bills. With all the huge bills, they still cannot take care of their workers. They waited for the workers to shut down their feeders, so that they can find who to put the blame on. I am paying for electricity I consume, so they must give me light.

“I urge the electricity union to resolve issues amicably with the distribution company to ensure electricity is restored back to Ikeja,” Ogun said.Head of Corporate Communications of IE, Felix Ofolue apologised to customers for the disruption of service, promising that they will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure improved and quality service to our customers.

However, the management of IE and union met over the weekend and agreed to work towards having harmonious understanding and working relationship between both parties.
With some high level of agreements reached, the union suspended the on-going picketing action.Part of the conditions of service at the meeting was to conclude the review on the cases of sacked 233 workers in 2016 and that of 5 and 41 workers in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The agreement was jointly signed by senior assistant general secretary, NUEE, Comrade I.O. Babatunde and the Managing Director and Chief Executive of Ikeja Electric, Tony Youdeowei. further explained that, while the electricity firm promised to promote high safety standard always, no staff would be penalised or victimised arising from participation in the picketing action.


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Joe AjaeroNUEE
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