The AFP reported on Wednesday that electricity workers in the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) are protesting the deployment of troops to their facilities across the country.
Following news that the workers intend to obey orders by their union to launch a pay strike, the government on Monday deployed troops to offices and installations. Minister of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji says the move is meant to protect these facilities in lieu of the strike.
According the AFP report, Prof. Nnaji said the secretary general of the National Union of Electricity Employees, Joe Ajaero, had ordered the electricity workers to embark on the strike from Monday since the government has failed to implement payment of the new minimum wage and government planned reform of the electricity sector, including the privatisation of PHCN.
PHCN workers, on Wednesday, carried placards and protested the presence of soldiers at their offices.
“We are not going to work with soldiers around our premises. You cannot intimidate us with soldiers,” Mbang Mbukubes, a spokesman of the workers, said on local Channels television.
Responding to the protests, the power minister said in a statement: “It is improper for any person to reject, in the name of trade unionism, the presence of military men and women in power facilities in which the nation has made huge investments over the decades.”
The minister went on to describe the strike order as “illegal” and said it constituted a “grave danger to national security and development”.
Professor Nnaji also added that Nigerian law prohibits the workers from launching a strike “because they provide an essential service”.
It is unclear what a PHCN workers’ strike would mean for the nation’s already epileptic power supply. Speaking at the just concluded Economic Summit, the power minister confirmed that the nation currently produces 4,000 megawatts of power to its 160 million citizens.
He had promised more work to improve the nation’s power supply, but with the workers walking out, is this lights out for Nigeria?