The leadership of the House of Representatives will ensure the implementation of the agreement between the National Union of Electricity Employees, Bureau of Public Enterprises and the Federal Ministry of Power to address the grievances that led to a strike action recently, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila has said.
Gbajabiamila also said the House would make sure that members of the union are henceforth treated rightly by the government to avoid the strike action they embarked upon on Wednesday, which paralysed economic activities in the country.
In a bid to intervene in the matter and find a lasting solution, the House cut short the day’s plenary session and the leadership immediately went into a meeting with all the concerned parties.
At the meeting between the leadership of the House and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige; the Minister of State for Power, Goddy Jedy Agba; officials of BPE; and leadership of the NUEE, Gbajabiamila appealed to the union to “exercise higher tolerance” before thinking of embarking on strike as their action could affect lives negatively.
Although the agreement was signed at a meeting held between the Ministry of Power and the NUEE, the leadership of the House said it should be included as a witness to it so that it would ensure that all issues agreed on are implemented.
Gbajabiamila said: “From all indications, this matter will be resolved permanently.
“This matter was discussed on the floor of the House yesterday (Wednesday) and we decided that it will be addressed by the leadership, not by any committee, not because the committee doesn’t have competence, but because of the seriousness.
“This issue has unintended consequences on Nigerians.
“Within the hours you were on strike, a lot of things may have happened.
“But they may not be reported.
“Let me plead with the electricity workers that your power of tolerance should be higher than any of us because your work and what you do or fail to do can affect lives.
“You should be able to sacrifice more.
“We want to make that agreement a tripartite agreement and include the House of Representatives as part of it.
“We want to be part of the agreement as witnesses so that you can hold us accountable.
“That way, we’ll ensure that the government meets its part.”
Gbajabiamila further pleaded with the leadership of the electricity workers to henceforth communicate to the House whenever there are issues that would lead them to embark on strike.
The Speaker also said the House would look at the possibility of amending the Labour law so that the ministry of labour could be given powers to sanction erring employers of labour.
He said: “We’ll see how you can work with committees on power and labour to see how we can amend the labour law to suit the issues you canvassed.”
Earlier, the Minister of Labour told the House leadership that he was disturbed by the strike, saying the union did not duly notify his ministry about its planned action.
Ngige said: “I want to register my great displeasure at what has happened.
“This is because electricity is an essential service after the hospital.
“In fact, if you shut down electricity, you will end up killing people.
“It was unfortunate that they had to go on strike without involving us much on the issue.
“I didn’t find it funny that the whole economy was thrown into a gargantuan loss.”
On his part, Agba said an agreement was reached with the electricity workers, which led to the suspension of the strike.
He said: “We’ve sat and thrashed out the issues from 8pm to about 2am.
“We signed the papers and they suspended the strike.
“I assure you that this matter has been resolved and communique has been signed.”
Also speaking, the General Secretary of the union, Comrade Joe Ajaero, noted that they informed the Ministry of Labour about the 21-day ultimatum and that no action was taken, saying they were left with no option than to embark on the strike.
Ajaero said: “Ministry of labour has teeth, but it can’t bite.
“We want a situation where the labour law will be amended so that the ministry will have teeth to bite.
“The ministry will write employers of labour, but if they fail to obey, they can’t be sanctioned.”
Ajaero expressed doubts on government’s readiness to respect the agreement, but the Speaker assured that the House would do everything within its powers to see to the implementation of the agreement within the agreed stipulated time frame.