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Nigerian electricity workers lock out Minister from office, issue 14-day ultimatum over tarrif hike



Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, was on Monday locked out of his office along with other workers of the ministry who were denied access into the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Power, the Power House Building, in the Maitama District of Abuja.

The action which was carried out by angry members of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) was as a result of the recent increase in electricity tarrif hikes in country and the refusal of the government to reverse the increment despite demands by organized labour.

The action of the electricity workers also coincided with a 14-day ultimatum given to the federal government by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), to reverse the hike in electricity tariff by May 31.

The labour unions which took the decision at the end of its joint National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on Monday, said the NEC has once again “vehemently condemns the unilateral increase in electricity tariff by the authorities.”

The labour unions said the “action, which was taken without due consideration for the economic hardships faced by the masses and the provisions of the law, is deemed unjust and burdensome.”

“The NEC reaffirms its demands for an immediate reversal of the tariff hike and the vexatious apartheid categorisation into bands to alleviate the suffering of Nigerian workers and citizens and gives the National Electricity Regulatory Commission and the Federal Government until the last day of May, 2024 to meet these demands,” the unions said in a statement.

Speaking on the decision to deny the minister access to his office, General Secretary of NUEE, Igwebike Dominic, insisted that the shutdown of the Power Ministry would continue until the government listens to the demands of the union or calls for a meeting to address the issues.

“The shutdown of Power House is going to continue until they hold a meeting with the unions or meet the demands written in our letter to the minister,” he stated.

Part of the letter from the unions to the Minister had read:

“We are taken aback by the utmost disregard for the critical stakeholders in the power sector by you and your agency’s unilateral and detrimental decisions in the sector.

“We believe that all agencies, under your ministry, should key into your agenda and set goals by extension to the vision of this administration in seeing to a regular and sustainable power supply in the country.

“So, the disruption being engineered by NERC in the sector is not surprising, as there is no known agenda or vision for the power sector by your administration one year after the resumption of office.

“The unfortunate scenario playing out in the power sector points to the fact that you administer the sector like a personal estate with no consideration for the welfare and survival of the workers and the sector in general.

“The mischievous deduction of eight per cent of the revenue generated as technical losses from TCN is a political calculation to blackmail the company and its management to make it look inefficient is disheartening and would, in the long term, hurt the entire electricity value chain. This is highly unacceptable and cannot be sustained.

“The vexatious order from NERC on a monthly deduction of N2bn from the account of TCN is unrealistic and an attempt to run TCN down, portray the management as incompetent and take advantage of the failures for selfish political gains. We want a justified reason for such a humongous and unrealistic deduction.

“The illegal deduction of 46.7 per cent from TCN revenue (not even profit) for project execution for Discos; are the privatised companies not owned by private entities?

“What system of privatisation are we adopting? Our findings revealed that all these obnoxious orders from NERC are a conspiracy to grind the operations of TCN and then liquidate it. These are to prepare enough ground to unbundle it for selfish political gains by a few people,” they said.


Zambian cleric Archbishop Phiri bans politicians from speaking in Ndola archdiocese



The Metropolitan Archbishop of Ndola, Archbishop Benjamin Phiri, has banned politicians from speaking in any church in the Ndola archdiocese following the disruption of services in the diocese by the police last Sunday.

The newly appointed Archbishop, who condemned the actions of the police, expressed deep concerns over the incident which he described as a blatant violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion and assembly.

Phiri who bared his mind during a thanksgiving service for the establishment of Ndola as an Archdiocese on Wednesday, also announced a ban on political activities in the church, citing the creation of divisions.

The Archbishop particularly referred to an incident at Divine Mercy Parish where a 66-year-old parishioner, Kamwale Phiri, was arrested for taking photographs of the heavy police presence around the church.

The incident, according to reports, occurred as police were allegedly hounding out opposition leaders including ex-president Edgar Lungu and Citizens First Party leader Harry Kalaba, who were attending services at various churches in the Ndola province.

“If you get any request that this one wants to pray, does he have to announce that he wants to pray? Why can’t he just come and sit in the crowd like everyone else?” Phiri queried while addressing the church.

He emphasized that no politician, whether from the ruling party or opposition, would be allowed to speak anymore because what they do is to bring confusion into the church.

“You are bringing confusion in the house of God. Politicians who want to pray can come to pray but don’t give them a platform to talk. I don’t want to hear that any priest allowed a politician to speak in church,” he stated.

Phiri reiterated that no politician was special, whether from the ruling party or not, and they would no longer get the privilege of preaching hatred in church.

“We are not playing, we are not joking here. I found it strange, and I do not know which law is being used by the police officers for them to detain a congregant without sufficient reasoning,” he stated.

Phiri added that it was not prohibited to take pictures in the country, especially if a person is within their own premises.

“When I was told of the police presence, I asked what the police were looking for and was told it looked like they were looking for opposition leaders. I said the church is the wrong place to look for opposition leaders. I advised my leaders to continue monitoring the situation and report to me,” he said.

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Mixed reactions as govt plans to send first Nigerian to space



There have been mixed reactions following an announcement that the Nigerian government is planning to send a Nigerian to space in the shortest possible future.

The announcement was made by the Director-General of National Space Research and Development Agency (NARSDA), Dr Matthew Adepoju, after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a U.S firm, Space Exploration and Research Agency (SERA), on Human Space Flight programme.

Adepoju, who signed the MoU on behalf of the Federal Government in Abuja on Wednesday, said the agreement was aimed at sending the first Nigerian to space.

Adepoju noted that the event marked the commencement of the agency’s efforts to implement part of its mandate of human space flight, as the agency is committed and determined to ensure a Nigerian is sent to space.

“The Human Space Flight programme is one of the cardinal objectives of National Space Policy and Programme.

“It was with this in mind that we established the Department of Physical and Life Sciences about three years ago to forge this mandate.

“This is also coming as one of our deep space exploration because there are many spinoffs that will come from the collaboration and opportunities opened for Nigerians,’’ the DG said.

Also speaking on the plans, Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Uche Nnaji, said the human space flight was a key objective of Nigeria fully supported by the President Bola Tinubu Tinubu administration.

Nnaji said the National Space Policy and Programme (NSPP) which was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in 2001, identified human space flight as one of its three pillars.

“Human spaceflight is not just a random aspiration of our country but a major objective of the Nigeria Space Policy and Programme which was approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, in 2001.

“Reviving and implementing all abandoned national plans is a cardinal point of the Renewed Hope Agenda of the administration of President Bola Tinubu. This partnership provides a way of achieving our long-time aspiration as a nation.

“This is also coming as one of our deep space explorations because there are many spinoffs that will come from the collaboration and opportunities opened for Nigerians.

“According to the 25-year roadmap approved in 2005 for the implementation of the NSPP, our first human space flight was scheduled for 2018.

“This means we are about six years behind schedule,” Nnaji said.

However, the plans have been eliciting mixed reactions from Nigerians since it was made public.

While some Nigerians have applauded the government on the move, others believe it should not be a priority as ordinary citizens are going through harrowing experiences as poverty and hardship continues to bite hard.

Those with the latter school of thought are urging the government to prioritise the welfare of the citizens instead of embarking on an audacious task of sending a Nigerian to space.

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