19 April 2012, Sweetcrude, LAGOS – BARELY a week after the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, apprehended the planned strike by workers in the Power Sector, under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, indication of fresh tension in the sector has emerged over perceived renewed insincerity by the Minister of Power and those driving the controversial Power reforms.
It was gathered that the ongoing discussions between government and the three unions in the sector; NUEE, SSAEAC and Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, Electricity sector, that would have continued on Monday, April 16, 2012, was called off by government without reasons only to be rescheduled for no specific date in May.
There is also insinuation that workers have uncovered alleged plot to clandestinely send valuers to the power plants and other Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN with alleged intention to under value the plants and sell to fronts and cronies.
It was gathered that some of the suspected valuers were at PHCN’s installations in Yola, Adamawa State, but were said to have been prevented from gaining access to the plants on the ground that workers were not carried along. Labour Vanguard gathered that the workers have nothing against valuation of the PHCN plants and installations, but want to be carried along to ensure that the process is not only transparent, but that the plants are not undervalued.
One of the workers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “We want to be part of the process. We want to be part of the valuation to ensure that the right thing is done. We will not allow a situation where people come into the plants secretly and deceive the nation for their personal interest and those they are fronting for. We are battle ready for any eventuality should they try other antics.”
Another disturbing report is the alleged non provision of payment of entitlements to workers in the 2012 Budget signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan. If this this true, unless the money for the payment of the terminal benefits will be sourced outside the budget, it portends the greatest threat to the reforms and privatisation of the sector.
Our benefits not negotiable: Speaking, General Secretary of NUEE, Comrade Joe Ajaero said: “The issue of privatization, according to the Minister of Power, is on course but what is not on course is the welfare of the people working in the sector.
After so many years of trying to tell Nigerians that privatization in the electricity sector has not worked anywhere, we decided to allow them to do what they wanted to do so that Nigerians will speak last. We have talked enough so we have decided to subject ourselves to negotiation.
So, Hassan Sumonu was appointed by government as negotiator and we started negotiating. But we realized that as we negotiate and reach agreement, the minister is sabotaging them, which is seriously affecting the process of negotiation and conclusion of negotiation.
We can give away everything but not the entitlement of the people that have worked in that sector, some 20 some 30 some 35 years. Where we are today is the negotiation of the entitlement of workers. Nigerians have been told that immediately they privatize there will be electricity everywhere and we are looking forward to that day. But for people who have worked and you now want to deceive us saying, do not worry; you are going to work for the private sector.
We have said no, it is not done that way. A public sector employment is not the same thing as a private sector employment. The people we are working for now, we are going to terminate that appointment, if the private man wants us to work with him, we will work with him on fresh terms, but for you to ask us to wait until PHCN is liquidated, then we will now go to private company A to collect our entitlements, it does not work that way.
The man will simply tell us that we did not work for him and we can’t even sue him because he did not employ us. That is where we are and somebody is saying that we are disrupting the process. The person has not even agreed to pay workers, even the 2012 budget made no provision for the payment of workers in the sector, yet they are telling Nigerians they are privatizing today and tomorrow.
So, we are increasingly seeing the deceit like where workers were thrown out of the Nigerian Airways without their entitlements. That is why the crisis you are seeing is persisting. If we have concluded and they pay us our little entitlement by now then we should now be waiting for that electricity to come through magic or through the normal process.
And we have watched the last few days the level of misinformation released to the media trying to divert attention, when the issue of power generation in the country was down the minister looked for escape goats and sacked three people.
Sacked management staff: When the minister came into power we had about 3,600 mega watts and when the power situation dropped to below 3000 and later 3200, we were told that one; the Manager Human Resource, the General Manager Marketing whose duty is to allocate mega watts and then collect the revenue for that area and give to the various arms; and the Chief Executive Officer transmission, transmission network carries the generated power, were all sacked when no power was generated to be transmitted to the transmission. Three persons were sacked and you say it is because of power sabotage.
Which power are they sabotaging, when they had nothing to do with power generation?
We had system collapse. Some of the contributory factors were as a result of the transformer that exploded in Benin. It was a transformer that was manufactured in 1964 that is still in the system. When we had that incident of explosion these persons were made the victims because people including some of us asked questions on how come they did not know we did not have enough gas, how come that all these transformers are not replaced?
How come that what you met on ground when you came in, in terms of human resources, machines and facilities, you have not improved on them. How come even some of the plants you people built there are no gas to them up to this moment?
How come you will build a power station without making provision for gas and the power station will lie fallow there? So, instead of addressing that, you are pursuing personal vendetta. At another time, they will say it is because of sabotage from the union when there is no evidence that the union has spoilt one pin even before now. This is misinformation that Nigerians are being fed.