The Federal Government at the weekend warned electricity workers against vandalising the national grid during the strike.
It said doing so was not only a criminal act but also a sabotage of efforts to provide Nigerians with a steady power supply.
You can carry out industrial action without shutting down or vandalising the grid. Unauthorised access to the National Control Centre is a crime and economic sabotage that must be treated with serious consequences. We need to talk to ourselves,” Minister of Power Adebayo Adelabu said at the weekend.
According to the minister, during the two-day warning strike early this month by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the government got the information that electricity workers attacked the control centre in Osogbo, the Osun State capital with the intention to plunge the country into a blackout.
Adelabu spoke in Osogbo while addressing electricity workers at the sub-regional office of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
He was on an inspection tour of facilities at the control centre ahead of its upgrade with modern technologies.
Adelabu told the workers that his ministry has already written to the National Security Adviser (Nuhu Ridabu) to strengthen security around its facilities nationwide.
He said: “No matter the circumstances, nothing must push us to destroy these assets (national grid) deliberately. I’m not against industrial actions, it is part of labour relations but when we are doing it, we must be conscious of what is our collective asset.
Industrial actions will be resolved whether we like it or not but in the course of the action, we must not destroy what we have. We need to talk to ourselves.”
“It is regrettable that during the two-day warning strike, I learned that the control centre was attacked. It is not the best for us as a country. These are things that baffle our international partners. We should see ourselves as defendants of our national assets.
Once anything happens here, it touches every Nigerian and every household. If we touch the National Grid, the entire nation goes into a blackout. During industrial actions, let us be civil and protect what belongs to the entire country.
“Whatever our feelings are and whatever sympathy we have for anybody should not push us to destroy national assets.
You can carry out industrial action without shutting down the grid, without vandalising the grid, and the government will still listen to you.
“I am only pleading. You have your right to industrial action but don’t set the entire nation on total blackout. If you do, everybody will suffer, so that is like blackmailing the entire Nigeria.”
The minister assured that the ministry would “focus on expanding the electricity transmission capacity, improve its capacity vigorously, and ensure a consistently stable national grid.”
He added that there was an urgent need to stress-test the national grid in order to know the nation’s exact power generation capacity
He said: “There are so many conflicting information out there about the capacity of the national grid. Some say the grid capacity is 8,000MW, some 6,000MW while some insist it’s not more than 4,000MW.
“There is an urgent need to carry out a simulation exercise and stress-testing of the national grid with a view to establishing its actual existing capacity, determine the expansion required to enable us to wheel more generated power to the grid and distribute to end consumers.”
Adelabu said the ministry would continue to work with relevant stakeholders to improve power generation and ensure smooth transmission and distribution of electricity.
He also revealed that an investigation has commenced to unravel circumstances that led to the fire outbreak at the TCN Sub-station facility in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State a few days ago.
The incident which led to a nationwide blackout for some few hours appeared to be an act of sabotage, said the minister.
He vowed that those found culpable by an investigation panel would be sanctioned.
Adelabu said: “We have set up a high-level investigation panel to see what led to that fire outbreak and I can assure you that if any member of our staff is found culpable, such person will face the wrath of the law. “
The minister said he would adopt a “carrot and stick approach” in handling electricity workers during his stay in office.
He, however, commended the management and staff of the control centre for restoring power promptly whenever the grid experiences disruptions.