Power: Electricity workers blame contractors for sector’s woes

—Demand execution of Elumelu committee Report

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

ABUJA – The National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, has demanded the full implementation of the Elumelu Committee report on the power sector ahead of negotiations on the planned privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, between representatives of the Federal Government and labour Unions in the power industry.

Speaking in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja, at the background of a meeting between government representatives and labour unions in the sector to resolve impasse over workers’ wages, the General Secretary of NUEE, Mr. Joe Ajaero, said there would not be any headway in the negotiations unless the government makes a commitment to arresting and prosecuting contractors and other individuals indicted by the report.

According to him, “If indeed the government is consciously seeking a way forward to the electricity quagmire in this country, the right place to begin would be to see to the full and unhindered implementation of the Elumelu Committee report on how billions of naira menat for the power sector were squandered.

“We are aware that the report exposed several acts of corruption ranging from uncompleted power projects to even non-execution of projects even after monies have been paid. The contractors and politicians have gone ahead to become governors and senators, and nobody has been arrested or taken to jail ever since.”

Ajaero insisted that electricity workers in the country were not to blame for the inefficiency and instability in the sector, adding that any attempt to privatise the industry without resolving the root cause of the problems would amount to nil.

He said, “This lip service in the name of power reform must stop. The workers are not contractors that have landed us all in this mess. The blame of unstable power supply should not be shifted to workers when it is obvious that if the contractors had done their jobs Nigerians would enjoy better quality of electricity.”

The NUEE leader, who is also a deputy president of the Nigeria Labour Association, promised that “the discussions (negotiations) are surely going to be interesting; it is going to be tough.”

He added, “However, we will be going in to the negotiations with an open mind, with great respect for the highly experienced government team even as we humbly attempt to put forward our own grouses with the proposed reforms of the sector.”

Meanwhile, the President of the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, Mr. Bede Okpara, noted that such a negotiation was long overdue, given the importance of the power sector to the economic development of the country.

He said, “The electricity sector is the pillar upon which all other industries in the economy rest. Without an efficient and reliable power sector, nothing else would work in the economy and it is vital that we forge a permanent solution that will ensure development of the industry.”

On his own part, the Chief Negotiator/Conciliator between the Federal Government and the labour unions of PHCN, Comrade Hassan Sunmonu, charged the parties on either side to put the interest of the country above all other sectional interest so as to reach agreement on all items on the negotiation table.

He noted that the power sector is “the most sensitive and the most important in the economy. If we get it right in the power sector, then the path to Nigeria’s economic development and prosperity for the people and the government will be secure.

“However, if we get it wrong, then the other countries in the ECOWAS sub-region which get their power sector right, will be selling their manufactured goods to the Nigerian market.”

Sunmonu added that, “The transformation of the agricultural and mineral raw materials into manufactured products will be adversely affected if we don’t fix our power sector. The creation of decent jobs as well as wealth creation and eradication of poverty will be impossible with epileptic power supply.”

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