03 August 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – EMPLOYEES of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, suddenly abandoned a meeting with two ministers and other top government officials on Wednesday allegedly on the orders of the General Secretary, National Union of Electricity Employees, Mr. Joe Ajaero.
The meeting, aimed at thrashing out outstanding issues concerning the privatisation of the PHCN, took place at the Abuja-corporate head office of the company.
It had in attendance the Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, and his Labour and Productivity counterpart, Chief Emeka Wogu.
A statement from the Ministry of Power, signed by the Special Adviser to the Minister of Power, Mr. Ogbuagu Anikwe, said the government-labour negotiating team requested Nnaji to address the workers on the government’s position on the matter.
The statement said, “As early as 8am, the conference hall of PHCN was filled to capacity. However, midway into the session, someone came to ring a bell to announce that the General Secretary, National Union of
Electricity Employees, Mr. Joe Ajaero, has directed all workers in the hall to leave with immediate effect.
“Many of the workers immediately complied. This, however, did not deter the team, which went on to deliver the message to the management and a few workers who were left behind.”
The meeting lasted for two hours, with the Power Minister informing that he came to have a face-to-face interaction with the workers and to answer questions that might be agitating their minds over the ongoing privatisation exercise.
“It is important for you to see me, ask me questions and get straight answers, rather than depending on third-party information that is often doctored by people with ulterior motives,” he said.
Nnaji informed the workers that the reform of the power sector had entered a final stage and that government was ready to do what was necessary to see it to conclusion, including taking care of workers’ welfare.
Nnaji reiterated that no PHCN worker would be sacked as a result of privatisation. He said: “The plan is to pay severance benefits to workers; the funds for this is ready and will be disbursed at the appropriate time.”
The government position was reaffirmed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Dere Awosika, who said that she was appalled by the fact that workers of PHCN were being deliberately misinformed about the reform exercise.
She also confirmed that the severance package for workers had been set aside and would be disbursed in accordance with the reform time-table.