The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nasarawa, Kogi, parts of Edo, Niger and Kaduna states have been thrown into darkness the following industrial action embarked upon by electricity workers.
The areas are mainly under the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) Plc, where impact of account escrowing and leadership crisis allegedly impinge on workers’ welfare and optimal operations.
While the office was practically deserted in the early hour of yesterday, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) said the bulk power for the distribution company (DisCo) could not be delivered, as energy evacuation from injection substations across AEDC franchise area had been disrupted.
The Deputy National President, Nigeria Labour Congress and Secretary General of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Joe Ajero, did not take his phone calls, but The Guardian gathered that the strike was necessitated by pension-related issues, liabilities and non-release of intervention fund by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) among others.
While workers were denied entrance, it was learnt that the intervention of the Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, would provide a temporary solution.
Privatised in 2013, the power sector, aside from failing to perform, has been in financial crisis, requiring perpetual intervention funds from the Federal Government.
Last year, the apex bank directed Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to take charge of the collection of electricity bills. A circular issued by the Director of Banking Supervision, Hassan Bello, had linked the move to the recommendation of the Power Sector Coordination Working Group to improve payment discipline in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).
The DisCos have been responsible for the sector’s revenue collection. While there was clamour for tariff increase, the industry’s inability to improve on the collection and reduce losses – a basic part of DisCos Key Performance Indicators and the inability to make remittance to the Bulk Electricity Trading Company – almost grounded the call.
Before and after the account escrow, CBN has launched series of interventions in the power sector, but there are indications that existing ownership crisis in the utility company has been affecting it.
KANN Utility Company Limited, a reportedly core investor and CEC Africa (CECA) of Zambia, which reportedly paid $81 million cash (as equity), as well as raised another $123 million loan to acquire AEDC, have been at loggerheads over the ownership of the company.
The Organised Labour had unofficially said it was not against the escrowing of the account of the 11 DisCos, but noted that money approved by the government for power improvement had not been released to the firm.
AEDC’s General Manager, Corporate Communications, Bode Fadipe, said the industrial disharmony has disrupted “power supply to some of our areas of operations, especially those on the 11KV network.”
He added: “We would like to assure all our customers that all hands are on deck to resolve the issues that prompted this action. We would also like to apologise to our customers for the inconvenience and disruption.”