Concerned about the threat of a national power outage, the House of Representatives on Wednesday resolved to wade into the ongoing dispute between the federal government and the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE).
The Union had on November 7 petitioned the Ministry of Power, the distribution companies (DISCOs), and generation companies (GENCOs) over unpaid pensions of 2,000 disengaged staff of the defunct Power Holding Company (PHCN) since 2013.
Subsequently, it issued a 21-day ultimatum to the federal government with a threat to embark on strike afterwards.
The deadline expired on December 11 and the House, in a motion moved by Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu), worried that industrial action by the electricity workers would spell distress for Nigerians.
Mr Okechukwu said, “the Union should be prevailed upon to back down on their threat while the leadership finds a lasting solution.
“If the strike is allowed to take place, the consequence will be more than what the workers are being owed.”
He said the House has already resolved to come down hard on issues of casualisation,” he argued.
On his part, Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta), drew the attention of his colleagues to one of the critical issues on the legislative agenda of the House which is power reform.
He said there is presently no guarantee that the nation can effectively distribute 100 megawatts of electricity daily.
“Even the meagre 4,000Megawatts, Nigerians are still without power, then imagine if it now shuts down. Those managing to survive, they will have issues.
“Let us restrict it to this chamber, look at cameramen, they will have to iron their clothes. Imagine the calamity of a shutdown, because someone due to ignorance, ignored the 21-day ultimatum given,” Mr Elumelu said.
Joining the debate, the acting majority leader of the House, Peter Akpatason, decried complacency on the part of the government.
“Many of NEPA workers were forced out of work as a result of privatisation. These people did not prepare for pension but were laid off and their pensions are not paid. These workers today will become pensioners tomorrow,” he stated.
Following these deliberations, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, directed the Clerk of the House to invite the ministers of Power and Employment, Labour, the DG PENCOM, the union leadership and other stakeholders to a meeting with the House leadership on Thursday,
He also directed the Clerk to invite the union, Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman, Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Chris Ngige; and the Director-General of Pension Commission, Aisha Dahir Umar, for a roundtable meeting with the House leadership on Thursday.
He said the House leadership would reach on the sidelines to appeal to them to back down from their plan.