12 September 2013, Lagos – As the Federal Government races against time to handover the assets of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, to private sector investors amidst unclear position on how to handle the workforce, General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, Comrade Joe Ajaero in this interview, said the issue of terminating the employment of the workers is of less importance to staff.
There are insinuations that a lot of PHCN workers will lose their jobs once the new investors take over the assets of PHCN. How prepared are you to deal with the challenge?
Well, when we started negotiation, they came up with a committee on rationalisation. We told them not to waste their time with that committee because we would not serve in the committee since every worker is going. So, if everybody is going why form a committee to sack few people? So, the committee has been wasting time because it does not make sense.
We have said that over 40,000 workers are all going and what matters to us is for you to pay us our entitlements, and you are talking about sack. Who are you sacking? Everybody is already sacked by virtue of our agreement which says every worker will be paid off. I can tell you that we have not given their sack comment any attention.
In fact, if not their pleas, we would have directed workers that any day they receive alert of payment of their entitlements, the next day, they should not go to work. In that case, let the government officials go and get people who will work in those offices or plants. I think as at today, nobody is disturbed about sack or no sack, retire or no retire.
The Minister of Power has been appealing to us, saying look, you know this cannot work, you know tomorrow if you say workers should not go to their offices, it means there will be no electricity. We said alright, if that is not the option you are looking at, when you pay, we will sit down and look at a proper transition process to make sure that electricity supply is not disrupted. Since then, they have not invited us.
Nigerians have been promised increased in mega watts every now and then, still there is no electricity, what is the real problem?
I have said earlier I will not comment again on this issue because we are not the people that promised increase in mega watts. If there is any Nigerian who does not know my position on all these things, I think such a person is a stranger in this country. The issue of saying we are going to give you 10,000 mega watts by December for instance, when you don’t have a power station that you are commissioning between now and then, is mere deception.
As we speak, we are under 4,000 mega watts now, you should line up power stations that you would be commissioning that would give you 6,000 plus mega watts for us to have 10,000 mega watts. Now, assuming we succeed in generating that, you must have the transmission, the line, that is the vehicle to transmit. It is like, you have cooked 10 pots of rice and then it is equal to ten tons, you cannot have five tons vehicle to carry it to for example, Oshodi market.
So, if you now generate 10,000 mega watts and your transmission network is for 4,000 mega watts, it cannot carry 10,000 mega watts to the distribution point. Yet, that is not the end because it is in three folds. In the distribution point, we have transformers, if you check the transformer on your street, when it was installed; it was supposed to supply maybe 100 persons, today it is supplyling 300 persons. In most cases, when there is supply, you will hear a loud bang, people will say the transformer has blown because of over load.
Now, if you make a mistake from the 4,000 or 3,000 we are in, and you say you have 10,000 mega watts moving to the same transformer, the whole system will pack up. So, between now and maybe that period you are saying you are going to give Nigerians 10,000 mega watts, the capacity of generation should be more than 10,000 mega watts because there must be reserves.
If you put 10,000 mega watts today and if there is no gas in any of the plants and such a plant is giving you 1,000 mega watts, you will be losing 1000 mega watts. So, if you have 12000 mega watts, and that plant is losing 1,000 mega watts, you have to from the reserve of 2000 mega watts feed additional 1000 to remain at 10000.
The transmission network should be ready to carry over 10,000 mega watts, the same thing with the distribution network. So, we have to work in these three areas so that our distribution point will be able to carry more than 10,000, our transmission carry more than 10,000, our generation carry more than 10,000. But today, none of these points can carry more than 4,000 mega watts. So, if they are now promising Nigerians that they will give them 10,000 mega watts, we wish them luck.
What are you driving at?
Our point is that there should be a conscious master plan. In 2001, 2002, Liyel Imoke with Obasanjo made sure they fired all our plants and they gave Nigerians 4,000 mega watts. Within one week, it relapsed since there was no reserve to bring it up to that same 4,000, and between 2001 and 2002 till now, we are still battling with 4,000 mega watts. People are still playing politics with the issue. I am saying that Liyel Imoke and Obasanjo, based on installed capacity not even new power plant, were able to bring 4,000 mega watts to the system and between that time till now, we are still battling with 4,000 mega watts. It is very sad.
– Victor Ahiuma-Young, Vanguard