The Nigerian government has suspended the management of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) amid an industrial action by the Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) over non-remittance of employees’ benefits.
The workers on Monday shut down electricity facilities in Abuja and neighbouring states, accusing the company of failing to remit the pension contributions deducted from employees’ salaries to their Pension Fund Administrators for 20 months.
The government’s intervention on Monday helped halt the strike, which had triggered blackouts in Abuja and other areas served by the AEDC including Kogi, Nasarawa and Niger States.
A statement by the Ministry of Power on Tuesday said President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the removal of the management of the company, which is partly owned by the government.
“The presidential directives as conveyed also directed the Bureau of Public Enterprises to set up a new management team of the AEDC,” the statement by Ofem Uket, the media aide of the Minister of Power, said according to the Cable.
“In a memorandum of understanding MOU, jointly signed by the minister of state power Goddy Jedy Agba, the chairman Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission NERC, Sanusi Garba, director-general, Bureau of Public Enterprises, Alex Okoli, comrade Joe Ajaero on behalf of the union, the federal government ordered the suspension of the strike [and asked to] given 21 days within which the outstanding emoluments and entitlements of staff will be paid.”
An interim management is expected Tuesday or Wednesday.
The leadership of the staff union said the staff’s grouse was that their pension contributions, taxes and cooperative contributions were deducted without AEDC remitting any one to the appropriate authorities.
Other officials said although the company has been making such deductions from staff’s salaries, it claims it is not financially buoyant to remit them.
Insiders said the firm’s financial and organisational problems are some of the fallouts of the current ownership battle bedeviling the electricity firm.
The private sector-driven firm was originally owned by a group of Zambians and some Nigerians after it was privatised by the Nigerian government. The government holds a stake in the firm.
The Zambian investors provided the funding for acquiring AEDC, and their Nigerian counterparts have claimed their goodwill led to the acquisition of the firm.
There has been a tussle over the ownership of the company after the Zambians reportedly sold off the firm to a different set of Nigerian investors.
The crisis is partly blamed for the company’s inability to access an intervention fund provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria to electricity distribution companies.
Officials told journalists that distraught staff of the firm had been complaining about the failure to remit their pension contributions, to no avail.
They repeatedly threatened strike but backed off until Monday.
When asked about why the company has not been able to meet its financial obligations to staff despite the money it makes and when a new management is likely to be announced, AEDC spokesperson, Oyebode Fadipe, declined to comment.