19 September 2013, Sweetcrude, Lagos – THERE are strong indications that the nation may be thrown into total darkness by workers in the Power sector over alleged Federal Government plot to secretly handover the assets of Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, to private investors without paying workers’ benefits.
The workers have threatened to shut down the industry should the government go ahead to handover the assets to private investors without full payment of employees’ terminal benefits as agreed in 2012 among other labour issues.
Already, the two unions in the industry; the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, and its Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, have alerted the public of the impending crisis and called on Nigerians to hold the government responsible for any industrial unrest that could throw the nation into total darkness.
NUEE in a statement by its General Secretary, Comrade Joseph Ajaero, said “It has come to our notice that the Federal Government through the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, has resolved to throw the Power Sector into turmoil by secretly handing over the Sector on paper. We are also aware that all the Chief Executive Officers, CEOs, of the supposed unbundled companies of PHCN have been called to Abuja and directed to bring their Letter- Headed Papers with a view to signing off on paper in favour of the Investors. However, we wish to advise the Investors not to fall into the trap set up by the BPE and Government who were not able to conclusively clear the outstanding huddles in relation to outstanding labour issues with the workers.
“Should the Investors go ahead to take over on paper without allowing the BPE and Government to conclusively sort out the outstanding Labour issues with the workers, it would be assumed that (Investors) they have equally accepted to pay outstanding labour Liabilities. Therefore, they must be prepared to pay at the gate of entry, every dime due the workers before they are allowed in. For clarity, please note that these issues are outstanding:- Payments of terminal benefits: Payment of the terminal benefits is yet to rise up to 50% for the eligible workers. Non-payment of Retirement Savings Fund to Pension Fund Administrators, PFAs: Up till this moment no efforts has been made to commence payment. The PFA’s can attest to this fact. Non-Remittance of 2% of the Union deductions as agreed: No word has been heard from the BPE/Government on remittance of this 2%; neither has the deductions already made from the paid workers remitted to the Unions.”
“Non-payment of Retirees who disengaged since 2011: It is absurd and sordid for Government not to think of settling these people who laboured over the years in Service of this country and get retired meritoriously, while the privatization exercise was on. Non regularization of some of the casuals already identified: With the biometrics done and concluded, it becomes worrisome on the continued delay in regularizing the casuals who had been identified based on Agreements already entered into. 10% Equity shareholding by the workers: In line with the relevant laws, the workers are entitled to 10% Equity Share of the total sale of PHCN. But it appears the Government is bent on short changing the workers.”
“The shortfall of terminal benefits from June 2012 till date has not been considered for payment.
Based on the foregoing, we reiterate our advice to the Investors to ensure they do not fall into the trap of the BPE/Government by taking over on paper. This is so because we will not wish to allow our labour over the years to go in vain. Please, steer clear PHCN facilities until all labour issues are resolved. We equally appeal to good people of Nigeria to show understanding and bear with us, should we decide to dance to this music being played by BPE.”
On its part, SSAEAC in a statement by its President-General and General Secretary, Bede Opara and Abiodun Ogunsegha, said “We wish to draw the attention of all to the following facts in respect of the on-going payment of staff retirement benefits to PHCN staff that the payments are in compliance with the agreement reached with the in-house Unions in PHCN with the Federal Government, in December, 2012. This agreement is consequent upon the fact that Government desires to clean up the liabilities of PHCN including Labour issues before a successful sale and transfer of the facilities/infrastrutures of the company to private investors. Much as we appreciate that Government agreed to pay and had started to pay, hitherto, Government had not paid 70% of the entire staff as claimed by the Honourable Minister of Power. Money had not reached the hands of more than 50% of the staff as at today.”
“Those paid had not been paid the payments of their pensions’ entitlements that are expected to reflect on their RSA Accounts. Delay in payment will equally delay hand-over of PHCN to investors because our Association will stand by the understanding reached with Government that handover will happen only when payments are concluded. We are mobilizing our members to standby, to ensure no investor takes over any plant until payments are concluded. Rumours making round is TCN may not be paid. If this rumour is true it will be adequately resisted.”
“Banks ware-housing our payments are deliberately delaying payments for their selfish purposes thereby helping to prolong the payments. We urge Government to expedite action on the payments as we shall not be held responsible for any action to be taken to ensure full compliance with the agreement and understandings reached with Government on the matter.”