THERE were indications, yesterday, that the shutdown of Nigeria’s national grid by workers, under the aegis of National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, put the nation’s security at great risk, according to experts.
Recall that the nation is currently experiencing its worst form of insecurity, including insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other violent crimes.
Reviewing the situation yesterday, the experts said the shutdown amounted to sabotage and serious threat to the nation’s security.
They listed security facilities that could have been been compromised to include the Vigiscope App, Police Situation room App, all Police Commands control rooms, tracking devices that need power, telephone lines which could have made it impossible for the public to reach the police to report incidents and response to distress calls.
A senior Police officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described the action of the union to shut down the national grid as laughable.
He said: “The reason for shutting it down is laughable. It shows how unserious people are taking security in the country. Anyone can just wake up and do whatever he likes. You said you don’t want to do a promotion examination. Is that why you should shut the national grid?
“If they had a dispute with the Federal Government, it would have been a different matter. But their problem was with their employers and they extended it to the entire nation .
“ Don’t forget that during the military era , there were some essential services that were not allowed to go on strike and the then NEPA was one of them.
“The union should have considered security, the economy and other implications before handing down the directive to shut down the grid.
“Come to think of the security implication of shutting down the national grid Number one, when you throw the country into total black out, you are emboldening criminal activities. When there is darkness, definitely that is where you have increased criminal activities, that is the reality.
“Second, don’t forget that Police and other security agencies are using electricity to track criminals. What happens to the tracking of criminals in that one hour is injurious.
“If those that are supposed to do one or two jobs with electricity are denied access due to blackout , some will resort to stealing. Nocturnal environment is a fertile ground for crime.
“Also, a lot of things such as Police system will be shut down . The present day reality in the price of diesel is alarming. Nobody can buy diesel again At that particular period, , many platforms will be shut down, as well as facilities like the National Security Adviser’s Office, the DSS platform, Police tracking and other systems.
“The Police have a lot of applications. We have a particular application that when you press a button, Police will get an alert and move to the directions. Two of them are in the Force headquarters. When the national grid is shut down, the systems automatically shut down. Also , we cannot receive distress calls and can’t respond to distress calls.”
Similarly, the Managing Director/CEO, King David Security, Mr. Davidson Akhimuh, said: “This is a digital age and many operations are tied to power supply. We use power to effectively carry out surveillance of critical infrastructure and many locations in the country.
“Consequently, it becomes a serious matter to shutdown the national grid because such surveillance cannot be carried out, thus putting the nation’s security at risk. In other words, it weakens government’s efforts to fight terrorism.”
Another security expert, who preferred not to be named, said “the workers have the right to strike, but they should have considered security and other implications of their actions. It turned out to be very negatively impacting on many sectors of the economy.”
Investors count losses
The Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading, NBET, Plc had earlier stated that electricity invoices averaged N60 billion monthly, translating to about N720 billion per year, adding that with the current subsidy being incurred by government, the daily cost of the strike may hover around N3 billion.
The DISCOs could not quantify their losses to the grid shut down yesterday, as they said they were still working what they lost to the situation in naira terms.
However, checks by Vanguard showed that only small scale investors and households who shifted to generators, suffered significant losses, due to the high prices of diesel and petrol, currently put at N170 and N800 per litre respectively.
Investigation also indicated that large scale investors, especially manufacturers, did not suffer much as they permanently depend on their gas-powered generating plants.
In an interview with Vanguard, the Managing Director of Coleman Technical Industries Limited, Mr. George Onafowokan, who identified inadequate power as a major challenge staring investors in the face, said: “Apparently because it is not reliable, many manufacturers have already entered into an agreement that enables them to pipe gas directly into their premises for power generation. It is reliable and dependable.”
System recovery hits 3,772.60MW
However, the national grid began a slow recovery process yesterday, hitting 3,772.60 Megawatts, MW, at 4pm, following the suspension of industrial action embarked upon by workers of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN.
Checks by Vanguard on data provided by the National System Operator, a unit in TCN, showed 22 power generation companies were on the grid, with Shiroro Hydro (584MW), Azura-Edo IPP (408MW) and Jebba Hydro (403MW) among the top generators.
On the distribution side, the electricity distribution companies load allocation was 2,485MW cumulatively, with Abuja and Ikeja DisCos having the highest allocation of 280MW each.
FG should listen to organised labour — Olubiyo
Reacting to the shut down of the grid, the President, Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, Kunle Kola Olubiyo, said: “Organised Labour has continued to provide alternative voice in various sectors of the economy whenever the need arises.
‘’Even though some may not at times agree with the style or approach of the Organised Labour, but not withstanding, we cannot wish them away.
“Organised Labour are critical stakeholders in nation’s building, meaning that the government and other parties should consider or take their views seriously.”
Why we went on strike — Labour
The aggrieved TCN workers, under the aegis of National Union Electricity Employees, NUEE and Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, had shut down the national grid on Wednesday following disputes with the Federal Government, thus causing blackout across the country for almost 24 hours.
The strike by the workers was triggered by the directive of the TCN Board that all Principal Managers in acting capacity must undergo promotion interviews, a development NUEE said, contravened conditions of service and career progression paths, unilaterally done without relevant stakeholders.
Another grievance of the workers was the perceived “stigmatisation of staff from the office of the Head of Service, HoS, of the federation from working in other areas in the power sector, and the refusal of the market operator to fund the payment of entitlement of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Ex-PHCN, staff as agreed in December 2019 agreement after industrial action by the union.
But following a conciliatory meeting initiated by the Federal Government the two unions suspended the action for two weeks to enable the government address the issues.
NUEE General Secretary, Joe Ajaero in a statement after the meeting said the parties deliberated on most of the issues in contention and ended with the following resolutions:
“On Issue of Unbundling of TCN’ it was put to rest as the government denied ever contemplating such an agenda.
“On the Issue of Stigmatization of Ex-PHCN workers, who have been denied employment opportunities in TCN; A high power committee was inaugurated comprising of the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Power, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, BPE, Market Operator, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and the Two in-house Unions as members; to fine tune policy as was considered discriminatory and unacceptable and revert back immediately.
“Payment of outstanding arrears of privatization; The Ministry of Power was mandated to activate a sincere process with BPE to pay the outstanding liabilities (16th month arrears) and a comprehensive report is expected in two weeks”.
Another security expert, who preferred not to be named, said: “The workers have the right to strike, but they should have reconsidered the security and other implications of their actions. It turned out to be very negatively impacting on many sectors of the economy.”