By Omoh Gabriel, Business Editor
Nigerian Telecommunication Limited, NITEL striking workers plan to cripple telecom services throughout the country today. The aggrieved workers of NITEL it was learnt plan to switch off all telecommunication switches linking it with mobile service provider and also the back bones that support their operation. The plan it was gathered is to bring to halt telecommunication services across the country.
The full strike could bring down the nation’s telecommunications system since the international gateways are owned and maintained by NITEL and its staff respectively. The gateways which are located at Lanlate, Oyo State; Saka Tinubu, Lagos; Kujana, Kaduna State; and Enugu are all linked to SAT-3 undersea cable, linking Nigeria to Africa and the outside world. The same fate awaits the Private Telephone Operators (PTOs), who depend on the facilities of NITEL, particularly interconnect centres.
According to those close to the plan who pleaded anonymity for fear of the consequences the angry workers will visit on them if the plan leaks said that NITEL workers have met with Siemens the German company that provide back bone services to NITEL to shut down their operation today. Siemens it was gathered has succumbed to NITEL pressure and agreed to do their bidding by closing down their operations from today, Monday 12th June 2006.
Vanguard learnt that the workers were angry over the statement credited to President Obasanjo whom they alleged had instructed Siemens to keep the lines open and ignore the striking NITEL workers. Those involved in the planned action told Vanguard that the President was insensitive to their plight hence the instruction for Siemens to ignore them.
Confirming the threat to shut down all PTOs and mobile service providers operations as from today, an official of the National Union of Postal and Telecommunication Employees (NUPTE), told Vanguard on condition of anonymity that NITEL workers had no other option than to take this drastic action to press home their demand for the payment of their unpaid salaries and allowances since January this year.
According to him, ‚Äúit is true that from tomorrow (today), there will be total shut down including the PTOs and mobile service providers. Since government is not ready to answer us and even the PTOs who are indebted to NITEL to the tune of over N89 billion have refused to pay their debts, which would have solved this problem, they will be shut out from tomorrow until this whole thing is settled amicably. Even Siemens that they have been using to render services especially to the PTOs, we have warned them to stop forthwith in their own interest. We have categorically told the management of Siemens nobody can guarantee the safety any of their staff found to be sabotaging NITEL‚Äôs workers legitimate struggle to get their dues.‚Äù
NITEL workers had on Monday declared an industrial action for the non payment of their salary for five months now.
As a result the Management of NITEL telecommunications was on Monday forced to shut down its telecommunications equipment across the country following a nation wide strike by the leadership of the two in house Staff Unions in NITEL, thereby making it impossible to make or receive calls in some locations in its network. But this time around they want the entire telephony system in the country to be paralysed .
The Management, however said the strike caught them unaware against the backdrop of frantic efforts made to nip the crisis in the bud, even as it said the unions were at different fora briefed and carried along at all level of deliberations.
In a statement signed by Bala Abdulkadir and made available to media houses in Abuja, NITEL Management said the Minister of Labour & Productivity also presided over a meeting between the two Unions and NITEL Management geared towards resolving the issues at stake amicably.
It was agreed at the meeting to maintain the status quo and await the decision of the two Committees set up by the Government to resolve the issues in NITEL.
At another meeting recently between NITEL Management and two Unions, the Unions resolved to work with Management in seeking solutions to the problems. Consequently, the Unions nominated some of their officials to serve on Committees to look at the areas of sourcing for funds including revenue collection drive. The Committees have been meeting and taking decisions in this direction, he said.