There was confusion among power sector operators on Tuesday after the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), fired the management of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company as a result of the strike embarked upon by the AEDC workers the preceding day.
Officials of the Federal Ministry of Power said the management of AEDC had been replaced with an interim governing council, stressing that the directive came from the Presidency.
“Indeed, the management of the AEDC has been dissolved through the initiative of the BPE (Bureau of Public Enterprises),” the Deputy Director, Press, FMP, Austin Asoluka, told our correspondent in Abuja.
He added, “A new interim management team formed by NERC (Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission) has been put in place.”
But many operators in the sector viewed the move by government as confusing because the government’s shares in power distribution companies is 40 per cent each, while private investors in the firms control 60 per cent shares.
However, it was learnt that the strike by workers of the AEDC on Monday was embarrassing to government, after their industrial action grounded power supply in the nation’s capital and five other states for about 10 hours.
Power supply was grounded on Monday in Abuja, Nasarawa, Kogi, parts of Edo, Niger and Kaduna states following the strike embarked upon by workers of AEDC.
Both the Transmission Company of Nigeria and the management of the AEDC confirmed that the strike by the in-house union of the power firm led to the blackout witnessed in most states that got their supply from the Disco.
Although the strike was eventually lifted on Monday night, it was initially embarked upon due to the failure of AEDC to pay outstanding entitlements to its workers.
Also confirming the sacking of the AEDC management, the media aide to the Minister of State for Power, Ofem Uket, said Buhari approved the move and a new interim governing board had been appointed to oversee the day-to-day operations of the firm.
He said in a statement that the dissolution of AEDC management was “following the recent industrial action embarked on by its staff over non-payment of arrears of pensions, allowances, salaries and promotion.”
The statement added, “The sack of the management team conveyed by the Presidency to the Federal Ministry of Power takes immediate effect.”
The Minister of Power, Aliyu Abubakar, and Minister of State for Power, Goddy Jedy-Agba, had earlier intervened through dialogue with the Ministry of Labour, BPE and NUEE to resolve and call off the 14-hour strike.
The statement further stated that a Memorandum of Understanding was jointly signed by the power ministry, NERC, BPE and NUEE, as the Federal Government ordered the suspension of the strike and that the outstanding entitlements would be paid within 21 days.
But operators in the power sector described the development as confusing, stressing that it might lead to litigation.
Reacting to it, the Chairman, Nigeria Electricity Consumers Advocacy Network, Tomi Akinbogun, said, “I sincerely think this is uncalled for. Does it mean that if there’s any disagreement with staff or labour issues in a Disco, government takes over, even before investigation is conducted?
Another operator in the sector, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “I do not have the full details of the facts leading to this action. But I see this as a political move which may not be correct.
But another industry player argued in favour of government, saying, “Was the AEDC management dreaming, don’t they understand the strategic importance of the FCT especially with regards to security?
“How could they allow that lockdown of power supply to happen? They could even face treason. Pray that the security agencies do not come up with any serious security breach due to the power shutdown, in which case they (AEDC) would have known that there is no absolute freedom given to anybody or company to behave recklessly.”