With Nigeria struggling to generate, transmit and distribute 5,000 mega watt of electricity consistently, the alleged sacking of the General Manger, Special Duties, Engr. Chris Okonkwo by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) is threatening to ignite labour unrest in the sector.
Engr. Okonkwo is the President-General of the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC), an umbrella body for senior and management staff working across the power sector.
He is said to have been summarily retired by the TCN Managing Director, Mr. Usman Muhammed despite having about four and half years left before his official retirement.
While the TCN branches of the SSAEAC and the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) backed the retirement, it is unclear how the remaining 16 branches of the union would react to the sacking of their leader given the long running dispute between the national body and the management of TCN.
A resolution passed by both in-house unions on Monday in Abuja said they backed the management decision and accused Okonkwo of creating “serious tension between TCN management and the workforce”.
The resolution was signed by the Council Secretary, TCN NUEE Abuja Branch, Cmrade Monday Johnson; Regional Branch President, SSAEAC TCN Branch Abuja, Comrade Ibrahim Mohammed; Chapter Chairman NUEE TCN CHQ Abuja, Comrade C.O Adah and Branch Chairman SSAEAC TCN CHQ Abuja, Comrade Musa Ambursa.
The local unions said: “The entire workers in TCN are happy and elated with this latest development but chides of the management of TCN for harbouring such an arrogant, troublesome and unruly appointee for this long even after the expiration of unwarranted contract. We hereby urged the management to ensure Okonkwo is made to refund all payments of salaries paid to him from the period of expiration of appointment to serve as a deterrent and to prevent future occurrence”.
Reacting to his sacking, however, Engr Okonkwo said the action of the Managing Director was illegal, as he lacked the power to do so.
Okonkwo who spoke to journalists in Abuja on Monday said it is only the Board of the TCN that can sack any staff from the assistant general manager level and in the absence of a board, the Minister of Power after investigation.
According to him, as a career staff, his promotion to the position of General Manger and deployment to the Market Operation section of the TCN by the Minister of Power in 2013 cannot be deemed to be a political appointment with tenure of office.
He backed his assertion with a copy of his letter dated May 15, 2013 and signed by the Director, Human Resource of the Ministry, Mrs G.P. Papka.
The letter titled ‘promotion’ read in parts: “I am directed to convey the Honorable Minister of State’s approval for your promotion to the post of General Manager with effect from 1st July, 2013.
“By this promotion, management expects you will demonstrate a higher standard of leadership, competence and responsibilities in the discharge of your duties”.
Okonkwo pointed out that there was nothing in the letter that portrays him as a political appointee or that he occupies a tenured position, which should result to his early retirement on grounds that his tenure has lapsed.
He explained that since his promotion as General Manager, he had gone on to head several units in the TCN, including as GM Enugu Transmission Region before he was deployed to head the Special Duties, a position, he claimed was created to sideline him.