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By Dr (Mrs) Dere Awosika
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By: Dr (Mrs) Dere Awosika, MFR, mni Permanent Secretary

Ministry of Power
1. It has come to the attention of the Ministry of Power that a handful of professional trade unionists in the power sector who belong to the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) have directed some junior workers in the Benin Station of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to cannibalise and vandalise critical electricity parts in the operations of the station under the guise of agitating for the payment of their pension benefits.

2. This morning some workers carried out this immoral and illegitimate order, which has disrupted electric power supply to Delta, Edo, Ekiti and Ondo States. Intelligence reports indicate that these trade unionists are operating without the support or even the knowledge of many members of the Executive Committee of NUEE, and they have planned to damage vital electricity facilities in other parts of the country.

3. The Ministry views this order and the consequent implementation as an act of terrorism and a conscious effort to undermine national security as well as Nigeria's economic growth. The government is, therefore, not leaving any stone unturned in the effort to bring to justice all those involved in the acts of terrorism against the Nigerian people.

4. We would like to state categorically for the benefit of all Nigerians that no trade dispute has been declared between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the PHCN staff. Whatever differences that may exist between the Government and PHCN employees over the payment of terminal benefits can be resolved amicably. This is why there has been a series of negotiations between the Government and representatives of the trade unions in the power sector, including the meeting that was scheduled for today at 3pm in the office of the Minister of Labour and Productivity. There have already been eight meetings lasting many days over a period of 14 months.

5. There are laid-down rules and procedure guiding the conduct of industrial actions any time a trade dispute erupts between an employer and the workers. These rules and procedure must be respected at all times.

6. The PHCN staff are reminded that under the Nigerian law, they are not permitted to go on strike because they are on essential service. What is more, the Supreme Court ruled in the 2004 case between NUEE and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) that it amounts to subversion of national security for them to go on a strike; all Nigerians are duty bound to respect the laws of the land and judicial pronouncements, especially those made at the highest level. Indeed, it will be unconscionable and unpatriotic for any group of misguided labour activists to want to plunge the nation into darkness at a time of increasing electricity supply across the nation, all the more so in this holy Ramadan season which will usher in Sallah celebration. It is most unfortunate that these agitators should display such contempt for a major religion in the country.

7. The Ministry of Power commends the overwhelming majority of the PHCN staff who, in the face of violence and intimidation by professional agitators who have never been PHCN employees, have been performing their duties professionally and conscientiously. Enough security agents have been deployed all over the nation to continue to protect them and the nation's electricity infrastructure.

8. We would like to assure Nigerians that all those who sabotage national security by undermining the power sector will be treated firmly but fairly, in accordance with the law.

9. The Ministry of Power remains focused and resolute in the determination to provide all Nigerians with uninterrupted and quality power. Electricity must be seen as a fundamental right of our people.