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Total blackout imminent today despite NERC tariff, market contracts

By Kingsley Jeremiah (Abuja) and Gloria Nwafor (Lagos)
17 August 2022   |   2:44 am
Nationwide darkness may hit Nigeria today as electricity workers at the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) threaten strike action.

[FILE PHOTO] Transmission Company of Nigeria station. PHOTO :Iwin.org.ng

Nationwide darkness may hit Nigeria today as electricity workers at the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) threaten strike action.

This is at the detriment of already signed contracts between the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the 11 distribution and generation companies.

The development, linked to a disagreement over promotion interviews for staff, will cause shortchange of consumers, who are currently being billed under the terms of NERC’s Service Based Tariff (SBT).

In September 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari vigorously defended an increase in electricity tariff tagged SBT, stressing that it is the only gateway to improving power supply to the masses. Under the plan, the higher the hour of supply a consumer enjoys, the higher his or her per kilowatt of electricity.

By implication, someone who enjoys 18 hours of electricity could be paying N60 for a kilowatt, while some who enjoys six-hour daily could be paying N30 for the same kilowatt, making a breach in the promised hour of supply by way of shortchanging some consumers.

While the market contracts are tied to productivity, an industrial strike by TCN would automatically run all power plants and distort the balance sheet of the distribution companies.

The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) had called for an immediate industrial action with threat to withdraw service today.

In a circular with number 012/2020, dated 15-08-2022, General Secretary of the association, Joe Ajaero, had said the action became imminent due to the directive of the TCN board that all staff and all Principal Managers (PMs) in acting capacity going to Assistant General Managers (AGMs) must appear for promotional interview.

Ajaero said: “This directive is in contravention of our conditions of service and career progression paths, and unilaterally done without the consent of relevant stakeholders.”

He added the reason for the industrial action also included stigmatisation of staff from the office of the Head of Service of the Federation (HSoF) from working in other areas in the power sector and refusal of the Market Operator to fund the payment of entitlement of Ex-PHN staff as agreed in the December 2019 agreement after industrial action by the union.

While most DisCos were already preparing the minds of their customers to await blackout, the Ministry of Power, in a letter, was appealing to the union to halt the strike.

The correspondence, signed by Minister of State for Power, Goddy Jedy-Agba and addressed to the NUEE scribe, had appealed to the union to allow two weeks of dialogue to resolve the grievances.
“The Ministry of Power takes cognisance of your complaints therein and is committed to offering solutions that will be acceptable to all parties concerned,” he said.

But Ajaero, in his response, yesterday, said it was “disheartening that three years down the line, an agreement reached with the union as a result of the intervention from the minister’s office had not been implemented.”

Recalling that the minister was part of the signatories to the agreement signed in December 2019 with the union, the scribe regretted that the unaddressed issues had degenerated to be some of the causes of industrial unrest in the sector.

On the issues affecting violation and contravention of TCN’s conditions of service by the board, he said the management had only written by proxy.

Against the foregoing, Ajaero said the union might be constrained to proceed with the planned withdrawal of services.

However, he said the union was open to decisive discussions with relevant actors for lasting solutions and prevention of total collapse of the sector.