Military personnel have taken over the premises of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) headquarters in Abuja following federal government directive.
At the scene, staff of the PHCN who prevented entry union songs, and access road leading to the Transcorp Hilton Hotel was blocked resulting in chaos and traffic jam around the axis.
The FCT chapter Chairman of Nigeria Union of Electricity Employee (NUEE), Wisdom Nwanchukwu, told journalists that the trouble started on Wednesday when officials of Manitoba Hydro International Ltd, had come to take over the management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
According to him, ‘’we told them we have been having negotiation with government. We told them there is a standing order to remain in status quo until labour issues are resolved. We refused to let them in because we were not aware of their coming and have not been instructed to let them in by our national secretariat.’’
He stated that to their surprise when workers started resuming for work around 6.30 this morning, they met about 62 armed military personnel who have taken over the place.
‘’They are not talking to us and would not let us go near. Is this the kind of Nigeria we have all dreamed of, a situation where people’s rights are infringed upon,’’ he said.
NUEE Zonal Organising Secretary, North Central, Temple Iworima, also told reporters that workers main demand is the settlement of their severance, pension and gratuity, but regretted that instead of settling them, government has sent them out by force.
‘’Our main demand is that they should settle us. We have been negotiating with them for 13 months through the Hassan Sumonu counsel but there is no agreement. They have refused to pay us our severance packages and gratuity. They say they will send them to PENCOM, but we have told them that we have an agreement with our management.’’
‘’What we agreed with the management is 25 per cent, but they say they will pay us 15 per cent which we refused asking them to follow the agreement with our management, they refused. Now the Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji has said Manitoba must take over TCN but we are saying they should settle us and we will go and they can give TCN to whomever they want,’’ Iworima explained.
A mild drama ensured when the National Television Authority (NTA) news crew arrived to cover the protest but was chased away by the protesting workers who accused the state-owned media of being biased in their reports.
The FCT Area Commander, Odukoya Sunday, who led other police officers to the scene to maintain law and order told the protesting workers to maintain a lawful and peaceful protest, and appealed to them to allow free flow of traffic on the road the other road.
‘’I am here to protect your life and property; we are not here to molest and harass u. You are agitating for your salary, but our business is to ensure that there is no breakdown of law and order,’’ he said.