Why the Threat of Electricity Blackout Hangs Over Nigerians

August 18, 2022

There’s nothing that screams witchcraft more than a group of people rejoicing over pulling the switch that puts millions of people into eternal darkness.

Yet, that’s what happened when members of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) went on strike on August 17th 2022.

Why?

The NUEE’s strike was against the treatment of electricity workers by the government-owned Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

The strike commenced only days after the union released a circular for its members to stop working. 

Their main goal was to show the government pepper and flex their muscles over the millions of Nigerians who depend on their services. 

But what were the issues?

The NUEE listed three key issues as the reasons why it was going to war with the government. 

The most pressing one of those issues was regarding work promotions. A new directive by the TCN had mandated that some classes of staff will have to undergo a promotion interview before they can be promoted.

Oh, the horror of interviews!

The NUEE doesn’t like this basic requirement we all have to face at our jobs for two reasons: it wasn’t consulted and it’s against its union rules. That second reason is probably responsible for the first reason, but we move.

The NUEE also listed the stigmatisation of its staff from the office of the Head of Service as another grievance to iron out. This stigmatisation manifests in the form of preventing union members from working in the other areas of the power sector. 

The third issue was the government’s failure to ensure that over 2,000 former staff of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) are paid their severance packages. 

These workers lost their jobs when the government privatised PHCN and the union has been campaigning for them to receive their dues for years. During one of NUEE’s strikes in the past, the government reached a December 2019 agreement to ensure the payment of the severance package, but that hasn’t happened. And the NUEE finally said:

So the only reason a country of over 200 million people was held hostage with darkness was that a union couldn’t iron out its issues with the government in a civil manner. Hence, the strike.

What happened to the strike?

Once the protesting workers put Nigerians in darkness, the government moved at lightning speed to organise a reconciliation meeting. After hours of negotiations, the NUEE agreed to suspend the strike.

And what’s a Nigerian problem that can’t be solved by setting up a committee? This committee is tasked with dealing with the issues and submitting a report in two weeks.

What did the strike affect?

It’s not like it needs any help, but the strike led to another collapse of the national grid. This collapse left many Nigerian businesses resorting to alternative power sources that are very costly to keep up with these days.

The NUEE promised to restore power immediately after suspending the strike. But many parts of Nigeria are still left in darkness 24 hours later, proving once again that it’s easier to break something than fix it.

What happens if issues aren’t resolved in two weeks?

“Hello Darkness, my old friend.”

ALSO READ: What Happens When the National Grid Collapses?

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