08 October 2013, Abuja – The federal government has said it will not hand over privatised successor generation and distribution companies of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to their new owners until it has sufficiently concluded all extant obligations to its erstwhile workers.
It gave this assurance to workers of the utilities, who last week, under the auspices of the National Union Electricity Employees (NUEE) threatened to initiate a nationwide industrial action in protest of the formal handover of certificates and licenses to the new core owners of the power assets.
Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, stated in an interview that the government had carried out its reform of the country’s power sector with the welfare of the PHCN workers taken into full consideration.
He explained that the government and various unions in the power sector had overtime held meetings and negotiations that culminated into an agreement that was being executed now, adding that government on its part would not abandon such agreement as widely insinuated.
“Out of 47,614 PHCN workers who were identified, we have completed the biometrics capture and related validation of 45,156 workers. As at today, the severance benefits of majority of that number have been paid while others are being processed. The payment of severance and pensions will continue throughout the month of October,” Nebo said. He further noted: “Every efforts are being made to make sure that payment for the erstwhile staff of the PHCN in all the discos and gencos are made and we do hope that within the next few weeks, payments will be concluded.
“We have handed over certificates for 100 per cent payments to all of these companies who bought the gencos and discos but you will realise that the licences for the gencos were not actually issued on that day; that will be issued in a couple of days time and like I said, this is the beginning of a handing over process.”
He added: “The physical handover will be done when labour is fully paid and that is substantially paid because there is nothing you can do if you have about two to three per cents of workers that were not accurately captured in the process which will not be called a failure at all, but we are hoping that over 95 per cent of the people that were biometrically captured and have no problems will be paid.”
Nebo also spoke of some of the challenges in keeping to established standards in the payment process saying: “Parts of the problem that came later are the opening of the Pension Fund Account (PFA) of these workers.
He stressed: “Like in the north, many people answer their names and the city they were born and so when, they go to open an account, they may not remember that they came into the job with such two names and they will open with three other names and some who came in with three names will open with two names and at the end of the day, there will be confusion because the computer will dump any profile with a mismatch.”
“These are the people that we are not able to totally validate yet; they are about five per cent of the workers and we hope to clear this because we want to put the money in their PFA so that they will be sure of our intentions; people are already expressing fears over government’s possible renegade of its promises but people should know that this government has always been forthright with regards to due process and issues of legality.
“We are doing everything possible to make sure that all that money is paid and once we are sure that we have substantially done that, and then the physical handover will be done.”
– This Day