Protests yesterday rocked Abuja and Osogbo, the Osun State capital, over the sack of the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, Usman Gur Mohammed, as workers demanded his immediate reinstatement.
This came as Organised Labour in the power sector also demanded the resignation of the Minister of Power, Engr. Mamman Saleh, over the sack, accusing him of working for foreign interest to the detriment of Nigerians.
The protesting workers, who crippled operations at TCN headquarters in Abuja and Osogbo, argued that Mohammed’s passion for the development and the growth of the sector was second to none in recent times.
In Abuja, protesting members of the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, and the Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, threatened to shut the power sector, if Mohammed was not reinstated. It would be recalled that the Minister of Power, Engr. Mamman Saleh, Tuesday night announced the replacement of the Managing Director of TCN Mr. Usman Gur Mohammed with Engr. Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz.
Engr. Abdulaziz, until his appointment as the Managing Director of TCN in an acting capacity, was the Regional Transmission Manager (RTM), Abuja Region of TCN.
The workers yesterday abandoned their duty posts and vowed not to return to work until the MD/CEO was reinstated.
In a statement by the SSAEAC branch of TCN, workers rejected the sack and insisted that his excellent performance was there for everyone to see, contending that those who sacked him had other agenda. In the statement signed by branch President and Secretary, Dairo Abidemi and Yerima Hassan, respectively, said “Mohammed came to TCN when the transmission sector was adjudged to be the weakest link in the power chain.
The union noted that with determination and focus, Mohammed was able to turn TCN around within a short period.
”It is now the strongest link in the electricity power chain. He has promoted the local content in-house engineers to a level of envy by the hawks of contractors that had always ripped the TCN dry at the expense of the hard-working TCN staff.
”He was able to promote the industrial relationship between the in-house unions (SSAEAC/NUEE) to enhance industrial harmony and improved productivity. Staff welfare has improved as workers are happy doing their jobs. We reject his sack and demand his immediate reinstatement for the growth, development and industrial peace,” the statement read.
But shortly after the protest, the national body of the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, came up with statement supporting the sacking of the Managing Director, TCN, Mr. Usman Gur Mohammed. The body, according to Umar A. Dubagari its General Secretary, in the statement issued in Abuja, described the era of Mr. Mohammed at the helms of affairs of the company as a period of terror and gangsterism.
The statement read: “The Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, hereby send a heartfelt appreciation to President/Commander-in-Chief and the Minister of Power for liberating the hub of power sectors (TCN) from the stranglehold of a despot by relieving the former MD of his misfit position.
“We foresaw this when we exposed his background and character which he covered up with a falsified CV that misled the government. We are glad that the truth has prevailed with the announcement of the removal of recalcitrant and insubordinate MD TCN, which is a welcome relief to TCN staff and power sector operators.
“We highlight his impunity as follows: Abandonment of TCN structure for cronyism and nepotism, manipulation of procurement processes with attendant financial fleecing of TCN, clearing and diversion of over 700 Containers from the ports without documentation of contents.
“Loss of 20 power transformers and substations worth over N30B in just over three years, a humongous loss to Nigeria, connivance with compromised staff to fleece TCN of assets and resources, destruction of unionism through sponsorship of internal crises.”
In Osogbo regional station, the protesting, workers locked the two entrances into the facilities and barricaded the road with their vehicles.
The workers who were at the entrance in their numbers, said their being at the gate was to prevent anyone from accessing the facility.
State Chairperson of NUEE , Alhaja Kudrat Adekunle, who spoke on behalf of the workers, said members were dissatisfied with the removal of the TCN MD. She said: “We are not satisfied with the way our Managing Director, Usman Mohammed, was sacked by the Minister of Power and his subsequent replacement with Engineer Abdulaziz, that is why union members locked the facility in protest.”
The protesting workers told Vanguard that the protest was the first phase, threatening that if government refused to reinstate Mohammed, they might embark full-blown strike.
Meanwhile, Labour in a statement through the national leadership of NUEE, warned that should the sack of TCN MDCEO stand, its negative fallouts would be too grave for the country.
NUEE in the statement by its General Secretary, Joe Ajaero, lamented that the recent gains were because of the Minister of Power’s removal of the MD/CEO of TCN who had made the gains possible.
The statement read: “The Minister’s action which may have taken the power sector 30 years backward may not be unconnected with the impending Siemens contract racketeering which the union has raised alarm to Nigerians, but the Minister is bent on ripping-off the people. ”The question Nigerians should ask the Minister of Power is why the haste to remove the MD/CEO of TCN? We want to know if any MD is removed based on incompetence or corruption and not at the wimps and caprices of any Minister.
”We have expressed worry that the Federal Government is handing very sensitive part of the nation’s power sector to Siemens that has failed three times in the unsuccessful SCADA/EMS contract awarded to it in Nigeria.
“We had stated that Siemens has a contract for the rehabilitation of one of the 330KV line circuit breaker between Ajah and Egbin, which is dangerously standing on one feeder circuit, but for over two years, the company is yet to mobilise to site.
”It is not on record that Siemens constructs transmission lines, which is one of the major needs of Nigeria’s power industry. Despite the alarm raised, the Minister has gone ahead to remove the perceived stumbling block in his way.
Workers’ protest expected — Power Ministry
Reacting to the barrage of protests trailing the sack of Mohammed, the Minister of Power, said it was normal and not unexpected given the period of years he had spent in the company.
The Special Adviser on Media to the Minister of Power, Engr. Sale Mamman, Mr. Aaron Arrimas, who spoke with Vanguard, , “The protests staged by the electricity workers against his sack is normal and expected because he has built a good relationship with the workers. He will get their sympathy and that is normal.
At the same time, the workers have no rights to detect to the government not to sack the MD. Hiring and sacking of employee is the prerogative of the government.”
Arrimas said the government could not afford to change its decision on the critical issues because the workers were protesting.”
“As it stands today, no MD/CEO in TCN has provided for the welfare and happiness of workers in the sector better than U. G. Mohammed. He has stabilized the network and system better than any person before him.
”Nobody has generated a lot of revenue for government more than U. G. Mohammed. Nobody has protected the interest of the country against foreign predators like U. G. Mohammed. The MD of TCN is there to serve the interest of government, electricity users in the country, the workers and Nigerians in general and not the selfish interest of any minister.
“The act of removing Managing Directors in the power sector who refused to ‘play ball’ like was done in NBET and Rural Electrification Agency, REA is not acceptable to the union.”
The union challenged the minister to a public debate on any national television platform on the challenges in the power sector.
”We demand the immediate implementation of the agreement reached with the Minister of Labour and Power in a meeting held on February 10, 2020, which had a 60- day implementation period.
“If the Minister can obtain approval to unseat the MD during this COVID-19 pandemic, he should be able to obtain approval to implement the agreement with the workers. Premised on the foregoing, we call for the immediate resignation of the Minister of Power who has displayed sufficient lack of knowledge in the Ministry he supervises.
“While we commend our members for their response to the sad action of the Minister, we urge them to remain on their beats but should not fail to pull out should the work stations be militarized as witnessed in some locations today (yesterday).