Nigerian government explains deployment of soldiers to power installations

*Says strike action by workers ‘crime against state’

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

17 November 2011, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Federal Government has sought to explain the reason behind its recent deployment of military personnel to various power installations across the country.

This explanation by government is coming at the heels of protests by members of the National Union of Electricity Employees, who have refused to report to work claiming that the presence of the military was a tacit act of intimidation by government even as it carried out its reform of the power sector.

According to a statement signed by the Assistant Director Press in the Ministry of Power, Mr. Greyne Anosike, the action by government was meant to “draw the attention of the Nigerian public to the present security challenges in the country which have warranted the deployment of security personnel to all major infrastructures in the country in order to protect government investments.”

It noted that, “These are preemptive measures to protect citizens employed in these organizations and safeguard power installations.

“Government therefore, wishes to remind all PHCN Staff and indeed, all Nigerians that electricity is one of those critically vital infrastructure (essential services) where workers must not go on strike as doing so is tantamount to willfully removing the life support upon which the sovereignty of Nigeria is sustained.

“Even at that, doing so under any guise, would be seen by this government, as a heinous crime against the State.”

The statement further explained that, “The security personnel are under strict instructions to protect the lives of workers and guard installations from possible terror attacks which would undoubtedly throw the nation into total darkness thereby weakening the present government’s efforts to sustain the gains so far made on the economy.”

It described as commendable the decision to protect power installations throughout the country adding that it conforms to the proactive steps already taken to protect public institutions as Hotels, Ministries and Government Agencies, sea and airports as well as tourist destinations in the country.

“This Administration therefore renews its invitation to all electricity workers and citizens of Nigeria in general to support the Power Sector reform and refrain from any action whatsoever that would dampen the ongoing resolute measures to break a century old jinx in the sector,” it added.

Meanwhile, the Federal government has further noted the decision of the present administration to implement the 50 percent wage increase for PHCN workers, pointing out that government observation on the wage bill gives the indication that some acclaimed staff might be ghost workers thereby channeling public funds to non-existent PHCN workers.

It noted that, “As a measure to avert this and in conformity with global best practices in human resource management, all PHCN staff have been directed to subject themselves to biometric data capturing similar to what obtains in Government Ministries and Agencies throughout the Federation.

“The resistance by the PHCN workers negates the policy trust of present Administration on power and therefore unacceptable to the government.”

According to the government, biometric data capturing can only be resisted by workers who are benefiting from a porous system that condones corruption. Since its inception in Nigeria a few years back, the biometric exercise has been mandatory, unconditional and consequential and therefore PHCN workers cannot be an exception

“Never in the history of any nation had a government met the total demands of sector workers in addition to a generous 50 percent increase in workers’ salaries to incentivize them.

“Government wishes to reemphasize that the fund for arrears of the increase as promised by Mr. President, is available and will only be paid to biometrically verified PHCN workers with effect from the month of September, 2011,” it stated.

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