Electricity workers can’t stop Manitoba from taking over TCN – Nnaji

09 August 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – POWER Minister, Prof. Barth Nnaji, says workers of the Power Holding Company, PHCN, cannot stop Canadian company, Manitoba Hydro International, from taking over management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN.

The Canadian company has been contracted by the Nigerian government to manage TCN on a three-year contract, but PHCN workers last week prevented the company staff from resuming duties at the PHCN headquarters in Maitama, Abuja, which also houses TCN.

Nnaji spoke through his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. C-Don Adinuba, saying PHCN workers would not be able to stop Manitoba from taking over as the company already had an agreement.

According to Adinuba, the minister was making moves to pay off PHCN workers. But, he said TCN was not being privatised.

“Nobody is paying retirement benefits to Transmission Company of
Nigeria. The TCN is not being privatised. Government is not giving them retirement benefits in TCN. The company is short staffed. The minister has given a directive that 1,000 engineers and technicians be recruited for TCN,” he said.

But, the crisis between the goverment and the electricity workers over PHCN privatisation plan continued in Abuja, Wednesday as security operatives continued to occupy the PHCN headquarters, preventing workers from gaining entrance into their offices.

Reports indicated that as early as 7am, security operatives comprising men of the Nigerian Army and the Police led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mr. Sunday Odukoya, had taken control at PHCN headquarters to prevent workers from entering their offices.

This disrupted an ongoing promotion exercise for workers who were invited from outside Abuja to participate in the exercise.

Mr. Temple Iworima, Zonal Organising Secretary of National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, in charge of Abuja, Kogi, Nassarawa and Niger states, who was present, directed the workers to return to their homes.

Iworima said it was not the intention of the leadership of the workers’ union to risk the life of any worker because of the lingering labour issues over the power sector reforms.

He said the workers were resisting an attempt by the minister to foist a severance package on the workers without their agreement.

According to him, prior to the incident of Wednesday, the Director of Finance and Administration at the PHCN headquarters gave an instruction to the Accounts Department to commence deductions of 7.5 per cent of the workers’ salary which the union opposed.

“We got information that the EDFA ordered the Finance Department to deduct 7.5 per cent of our salaries and we disagreed because there are issues that are outstanding,” he said.

He further stated: “The issue of our gratuities has not been settled. The minister wants to pay one year severance salary and we are saying that is not enough. The issue is still pending.

“They want our workers to sign the Retirement Service Account when there is no account in the first place. They also want our people to sign severance package and letters of transfer.”

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