* As Individuals, Businesses Lament Acute Hardship
By Celestine Okafor (Editor-in-Chief)
The strike by all affiliates of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Abia State over non-payment of the state public servants’ salaries and pensions has thrown the entire state into darkness.
The strike started last Monday, February 27, 2023, following the directive dated February 21, 2023, by the NLC leadership and “Commencement of Trade Union Actions against Abia State Government”.
The directive signed by Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja, the NLC Secretary General, explains that the strike became imperative after the National Action Committee (NAC) had on February 20 agreed to “activate the National Executive Committee resolution on the need to engage the Abia State government over anti-workers posture”.
In protest against the plight of Abia serving and retired public servants who are owed for several months and in some cases for years, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) in the state joined the strike.
As a result of the strike which affects the operations of Aba Power, a member of the Geometric Power group, and the Alaoji Power Plant, as well as the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), the whole of Abia State has been without power for days.
“We are considering closing down our hospital for now”, Dr Emeka Irobi, medical director of Holy Trinity Clinic in Obingwa Local Government Area, told journalists this morning that, “because we can’t afford to run this facility in the village with petrol purchased at over N440 per litre or diesel bought at over N800 per litre.
“How many patients can afford medical treatment paid for at such a cost recovery rate, even when most can’t bear the current cost?”
Both Titus Agwu, a shoemaker at the popular Ariara International Market in Aba, and Iheanyi Nwosu, a tailor in the same market, described the prolonged power outage as unusual since Aba Power took over power supply in nine out of 17 local government areas in the state since last year.
“Electricity has been improving dramatically since September, so we were shocked to experience a long power cut”, according to Agwu.
Nwosu agreed, noting that Aba Power wasted no time in informing the public about the cause of the blackout.
Bob Chukwueke, an Aba-based legal consultant, lamented that the strike started amidst acute petrol and cash shortages throughout the federation.
He argued: “Even without such shortages, the ongoing historic elections throughout Nigeria should have caused the well-meaning strike to come before now or after the elections, but certainly not in the middle of these crucial and consequential national elections”.
Associate Professor Chuka Chukwube of the University of Lagos advised the NLC leadership to “quickly direct NUEE members to return to their duties because of the tremendous hardship which the Abia people are passing through as a result of the strike.
“There are enough affiliate NLC members without NUEE to drive home the point that the outgoing Abia State administration has been very unfair to its workers, both active and retired, and force GovernorOkezie Ikpeazu to do the right thing”.
Meanwhile, Aba Power has issued a statement sympathising with its customers over the “untold hardship of the last few days, a consequence of the total absence of electric power in Abia State”.
In the statement by its managing director, Patrick Umeh, the company pledged to restore power in nine of the 17 local government areas in the state which it services “the very minute the NLC strike is called off”. NNL.