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Nigerians may celebrate New Year in Nation-wide blackout

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Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Toby Okechukwu, has expressed the fear that there might be a nationwide blackout over the ongoing industrial action by the National Union of Electricity Employees.

Members of the union had vowed to go on a nationwide strike after the 21-day ultimatum it issued to the Minister of Power, Mr Saleh Mamman, expired.

The lawmaker representing Enugu said if urgent actions were not taken, Nigerians may end the remaining part of 2019 and celebrate the New Year in a blackout.

This is as the House of Representatives says it will meet with heads of Ministries of Power, Labour and the National Pension Commission to intervene in the industrial action by the  NUEE on Thursday.

Okechukwu moved the motion under ‘Matters of Urgent Public Importance’ at plenary, presided over by the Speaker, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday.

The motion was tagged, “Urgent need for the Federal Government to interface with the management of electricity companies and the National Union of Electricity Employees to avoid impending electricity blackout.”

Okechukwu recalled that a petition was written by NUEE to electricity distribution and generating companies, warning of a nationwide strike if their demands were not met.

“A petition, dated Nov. 7, was written to the Minister of Power by the NUEE and copied to all DISCOS and GENCOS, where the union warned, and gave a 21-day ultimatum to declare a nationwide strike if their demands were not met by the electricity companies.

“These include non-payments of salary arrears, remittance of pension deductions, refusal to pay over 2,000 disengaged workers of the ex-PHCN staff since 2013, underpayment of over 50,000 ex-PHCN staff and casualisation/outsourcing of workers,” he said.

The lawmaker said NUEE accused the ministry of power of failing to respond to their strike notification letter which expired on December 10.

“The union, having exhausted every avenue for resolution of the dispute, has no other option than to withdraw services, without further notice.

“Their resolve to go on with the strike without further notification came as a result of the information by a power sector consultant, Mrs Rahila Thomas, wherein she stated that GENCOS and DISCOS direly need N1.2 trillion bailout to improve services,” he said.

He expressed the concern that “the whole country would be plunged into a blackout if the union should be allowed to carry out its threat.”

The lawmakers also expressed the concern that if the reasons for the nationwide strike by NUEE were not addressed, it would lead to “serious financial losses for both private and government establishments, and pose security challenges in our country.”

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