PHCN privatisation: Total blackout imminent

PHCN protest07 November 2013, Lagos – NIGERIA is now experiencing a near total collapse of power supply in the country as a result of shoddy arrangements before the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, facilities were handed over to new owners.

One week after the hand-over, many of the facilities have been left unattended to as many of the workers have been sacked.

To worsen the situation, some of the workers that are yet to be paid their severance benefits were also alleged to be disengaged indiscriminately.

In Lagos and other parts of the country, erratic power supply now persists.

For instance, in Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, the fate of workers hangs in the balance as they have been kept in the dark on their true position in the new dispensation.

At its Alausa head office, some of the workers were, yesterday, seen outside discussing their fate.

One of them, who preferred not to be mentioned, told Vanguard that the new owner had neither sacked nor employed them, saying “we are in a quandary as we have not been told what to do or what not to do. Many of our offices are locked.”

Also, at the Magodo sub-station, some of the staff were seen discussing in groups.
‘They have been paid’

A highly placed official, however, told Vanguard that all the workers got their entitlements before the official handover to the new owners last Friday and as such had no reason to complain.

He also said that their offices were locked because the new owners had not decided what to do with them.
Already, industrial crisis is brewing in the sector as workers have downed tools to protest alleged breach of the agreement reached between government and organised labour.

Specifically, the workers are protesting alleged massive sack of colleagues, who have not been paid their severance benefits.

This includes labour leaders that were said to be marked for sack at all levels of leadership contrary to the agreement reached on Thursday, October 31.
Recall that the Federal Government and organised labour, on the eve of the handing over, reached agreement on pension issues, including non-payment of severance benefits to workers.

Part of the agreement read: “That the issue of all payments of all severance benefits should be completed by Friday, November, 15, 2013, but concerned workers will only exit after full payments.

“The process of re-validation of biometric data and payments for the affected workers should be completed by Friday, November, 15, 2013.

“However, such workers shall remain in employment until all their benefits are paid. The process of re-validation of all normally retired workers of PHCN should commence and be completed by November 30, 2013 for the purpose of payment of gratuity.”

However, reports across the country, yesterday, indicated indiscriminate issuance of termination letters dated October 21, 2013, and given them on Monday, November 4, three days after the handover.

Termination letter
A copy of such letters, entitled Letter of disengagement from service, read: “Following the finalisation of the negotiations with PHCN labour union on the settlement of terminal benefits and subsequent payment of agreed severance entitlements to your account, you are hereby disengaged from service of the company with effect from October 31, 2013.

“You are, therefore, requested to hand over all company properties in your possession to the MD/CEO or the designate.

“Please note that the pension element of your terminal benefit has been paid into your Retirement Savings Account, RSA, accordingly.”

The letter was signed by Engineer Oladele Amoda, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, CEO, who has been retained by the new owners of the Eko Electricity Distribution Company (West Power and Gas).

In Lagos
In Lagos, most of the business units and cash offices have been shut and commercial and other activities crippled.
An official of the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, who spoke to Vanguard yesterday on condition of anonymity, said: “There is protest across the country.

“In many states including Lagos, the workers have shut their offices and business units because they are being issued termination letters even when their severance benefits have not been paid.”
Some of the business units shut when Vanguard visited were Agbara, Ojo, Festac, Mushin and Oshodi.

‘We have not been paid’
One of the disengaged workers said: “I am not up to the retirement age, but I have been disengaged. There are some of us that have not been paid a dime, yet we were disengaged.

“All we are asking is that the Federal Government should pay us our entitlements. This is what our union has been fighting for.

“Our leaders have been trying to avoid what happened to NITEL and NPA staff.”

Ikeja DISCO react
Reacting to the development, the management of Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, through Mr. Pekun Adeyanju, Assistant General Manager, Public Affairs, said the company wished “to alert customers in its network that the transaction which resulted into the hand over to a new management does not in any way signify a shut-down of operations.

“The company is an ongoing concern. Chairman of the company, Mr. Kola Adesina, had asked for the patience and support of the customers during the handover ceremony on Friday, November 1.”
*Victor Ahiuma-Young, Sebastine Obasi & Kunle Kalejaye

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