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Nationwide Blackout: Aba Power Expresses Surprise

 

Aba Power, Nigeria’s newest electricity distribution company, has expressed surprise that a part of its coverage area was affected by the nationwide shutdown of electricity services by the country’s labour unions pressing for an increased national minimum wage and the withdrawal of the recent increase in electricity tariff for individuals and organizations receiving up to 20 hours of supply daily.

The strike, which started on Monday, was suspended earlier today (Tuesday) for a week following discussions yesterday between the Federal Government and labour leaders.

“Every Nigerian is surprised that some individuals enforcing the strike should disrupt our operations because we met the two demands of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) without prompting even before the nationwide strike”, the Aba Power Managing Director, Ugo Opiegbe, said in a statement this morning before the strike suspension.

“We are the only electricity distribution company in the whole country still operating the 2023 tariff, even though we are the only power firm that has not received even one naira from the over seven trillion naira (N7tn) the Federal Government has paid to generation and distribution firms in the country since 2013 when the assets of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) were privatized”.

Aba Power supplies electricity to none of the 21 local government areas (LGAs) in Abia State.

The Aba Power boss explained that his firm has been operating the 2023 tariff approved by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) because it was concerned for manufacturing firms which have been going through turbulence in recent times due to the harsh operating environment.

Opiegbe also said that the demand for what the striking labour unions call living wages, as opposed to “starvation wages”, does not affect his company because “it is without a doubt the best paying in the industry, even though it began commercial operations only in September 2022 after almost 20 years of being limbo due to man-made obstacles known to every citizen”.

It was understood that Geometric Power Group, of which Aba Power is a member, increased staff salary across the board last week.

Jude Efidi, an engineer with the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) before joining Aba Power, confirmed the salary review.

“We were surprised at the substantial increase”, he told journalists in Aba today, “because we did not ask for it, nor did we expect it.

“We have always been conscious of the strong economic headwinds, especially in the power sector where almost everything used is imported and paid for with dollars.”

The Aba Power MD said that he is almost certain that neither NLC nor TUC officials could have ordered the shutting down of his company’s operations since they know that “we can’t be found wanting concerning electricity tariff hike and staff welfare”.

He promised to take up the matter with the labour leaders “who, I am convinced, are still not aware that we are now affected by the ongoing nationwide strike.

“It is not fair to punish a highly socially responsible and proactive organization instead of holding up Aba Power as a role model.

I should think that a few activists acted without clearance from above or without informing their leaders”.

 

An investigation has indicated that Aba Power might not have been targeted by labour activists.

 

According to Dike Ejike, an engineer and electricity consultant in the Southeast part of Nigeria, one of Aba Power’s major facilities is located on the same premises as the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) in Aba, which was a target of the strikers.

 

“It is a pity that in the process of preventing TCN workers from accessing their office”, stated Ejike, “the operations of a most admirable company got disrupted, thus affecting industrialists in and around Aba reputed for indigenous manufacturing and technology.

 

“It is a case of what may be called Aba Power being guilty by association”.

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