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Power outage as NLC plans nationwide strike

NIGERIA Labour Congress (NLC) has declared a nationwide strike over the crisis in the power sector, including the invasion of the headquarters of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) by military men and the current deductions from  workers’ salaries.

The labour union took the decision after its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Benin City, Edo State, on Wednesday, where issues on security, the face-off between the National Assembly and the presidency over budget implementation, corruption, crude oil theft, murder of Olaitan Oyerinde, trial of fuel subsidy scam suspects, the Nigerian Railway Corporation  centenary celebrations and leadership of the NLC were discussed.

The NLC gave a one-week ultimatum to the Federal Government and the management of PHCN to conclude negotiations with the unions or face nationwide blackout.

In a communiqué issued and read after the meeting by its president, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, the NLC declared that the congress and its allies would commence strike if the government and the PHCN management failed to satisfactorily conclude negotiations with the unions by the end of one week.

nigeria labour congress

The NEC condemned in its entirety the military takeover of the corporate headquarters of the PHCN over an industrial relations issue and, therefore, called on the Federal Government to, within the next one week, withdraw the army from PHCN installations.

“To prosecute this action, NEC directs that strike committees be set up immediately across the country,” Comrade Omar said.

He pointed out that the NEC had directed the unions in the power sector to also commence actions to compel the management of

PHCN and government to implement their collective agreements.

On the pension matter, the congress reiterated its earlier position that the New Pension Act did not abolish gratuity, saying that the 25 per cent contribution by the workers should be paid up to date.

“NEC holds the view that there cannot be retroactive contribution, hence if the PHCN management intends to migrate to the new pension policy, they should go into agreement with the unions and agree on the commencement date to start the contribution,” he said.

The NLC condemned the recent attack on the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) national secretariat and called on the law enforcement agencies to commence the prosecution of persons arrested in connection with the act.

It also condemned the style and manner of intervention in the PHCN imbroglio by the Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu, warning that the congress might be compelled to boycott all activities involving the minister.

“Any attempt to disregard the clear provisions of the law by any government functionary, no matter how highly placed, will be massively resisted in the best traditions of trade unionism,” Omar warned.

He noted that in spite of the measures taken by the government, the security situation in the country continued to deteriorate.

The NLC president noted that kidnappings, assassinations, resurgence of robberies, bombings, communal and sectarian violence had led to loss of lives, displacements, interruption of productive activities with prospect of acute food shortages, destruction of properties and capital flight.

He emphasised that government’s continuous display of incapacity to confront these problems had eroded the confidence of the citizenry in the ability of the government to protect them.

Omar also described the face-off between the National Assembly and the executive on the implementation of the budget as healthy for democracy, saying that it brought about checks and balances in the system.

He urged the National Assembly to continue to perform its lawmaking and oversight functions as prescribed by the constitution, but further advised that this should not be tainted by partisan politics.

The NLC NEC also re-affirmed its confidence in the national leadership of the congress.

Meanwhile, virtually all offices of the PHCN in Kano remained locked on Thursday, as workers embarked on indefinite strike to protest the non-payment of their July salaries and deduction of 7.5 per cent from their salaries as pension contribution

When the Nigerian Tribune visited the PHCN office at Post Office Road, the main entrance gate was locked.

According to some of the workers, who craved anonymity, the deduction of the pension was not well thought out, in view of the economic burden of the masses.

The state secretary of the NUEE, Mallam Muhammad Musa, said the directive to embark on the strike was from the national headquarters.

Also speaking on the issue, the  Principal Manager (Public Affairs), Kano Electricity Distribution Company, Mallam Muktari Baffa, said the deduction was the directive from the Federal Ministry of Power, in compliance with the 2004 Pension Reform Act.

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