Nationwide blackout as striking workers halt national grid operations

National power grid

The country has been thrown into a fresh round of blackouts over the shutdown of the national grid by aggrieved members of the labour unions.

The national grid system dropped to zero megawatts on Monday as a result of the complete disruption of power supply to all eleven electricity distribution companies in the country.

A Monday statement from Transmission Company of Nigeria’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Ndidi Mbah, said the nationwide blackout was due to staff of the TCN, under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Workers (NUEE), completely shutting down all power substations across the country at approximately 2:19 am on Monday, causing the national grid system to drop to zero megawatts.

“At about 1:15 am this morning, the Benin Transmission Operator under the Independent System Operations unit of TCN reported that all operators were driven away from the control room and that staff that resisted were beaten while some were wounded in the course of forcing them out of the control room and without any form of control or supervision, the Benin Area Control Center was brought to zero.

“Other transmission substations that were shut down, by the Labour Union include the Ganmo, Benin, Ayede, Olorunsogo, Akangba, and Osogbo Transmission Substations. Some transmission lines were equally opened due to the ongoing activities of the labour union,” the statement read in part.

On the power generating side, Mbah said units from different generating stations were forced to shut down some units of their generating plants.

She said, “The Jebba Generating Station was forced to shut down one of its generating units while three others in the same substation subsequently shut down on very high frequency. The sudden forced load cuts led to high frequency and system instability, which eventually shut down the national grid at 2:19 am.”

Speaking on efforts to recover lost power generation, Mbah, said at about 3.23 AM, TCN commenced grid recovery, using the Shiroro substation to attempt to feed the transmission lines supplying bulk electricity to the Katampe Transmission Substation.

“The situation is such that the Labour Union is still obstructing grid recovery nationwide. We will continue to make effort to recover and stabilise the grid to enable the restoration of normal bulk transmission of electricity to distribution load centres nationwide,” the statement added.

The move came following a last-minute push by the National Assembly to halt the industrial action by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

After a four-hour meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on Sunday evening in Abuja, the leadership of the organised labour said there was no going back on the nationwide industrial action.

“For now, we don’t have the power to call off the strike, tomorrow (Monday) morning, the strike will kick off as we take their (NASS) plea asking us to call off the strike to our various organs,” said Festus Osifo after the meeting with NASS leadership.

Osifo, the TUC president, and his counterpart in the NLC Joe Ajaero, met with Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of the House of Representatives Tajudeen Abbas in Abuja.

The meeting was part of last-minute efforts by the legislators to persuade aggrieved workers to shelve their planned industrial action for a new minimum wage.

The decision of the organised labour followed the deadlock between the Federal Government and the unions over a new national minimum wage and reversal of the recent hike in electricity tariffs.

The labour unions had said the current minimum wage of ₦30,000 can no longer cater to the well-being of an average Nigerian worker, lamenting that not all governors are paying the current wage award which expired in April 2024, five years after the Minimum Wage Act of 2019 was signed by former President Muhammadu Buhari. The Act should be reviewed every five years to meet with contemporary economic demands of workers.