01 October 2013, Abuja – Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, workers protested yesterday the non-payment of their entitlements, to stall the take-over of the company by new owners.
In Abuja, they barricaded the entrance to the headquarters at Maitama District.
A few minutes away, President Goodluck Jonathan was presenting the certificate and licences to the new owners at the Banquet Hall of the State House.
Watched over by a military team, the workers were peaceful in the protest. They carried placards, one of which read: “Jonathan, please pay PHCN staff severance packages.”
The Chairman, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Comrade James Ademola Ayeni, said the workers were protesting the handover of PHCN facilities to investors who claimed to have bought them over.
He noted that by July, the Federal Government reached an agreement with the union that government should privatise PHCN before handover to the buyers and ensure that all the labour issues are sorted out as agreed.
Ayeni said it was agreed that the government should regularise the staff so that they will be entitled to severance packages but the government is yet to comply with this understanding.
According to him, the Federal Government agreed that every worker will be paid severance package based on the time spent since the incoming investors cannot inherit the liabilities of the workers who did not work for them.
Asked how many PHCN workers have been settled, he said “25% of the workforce”. “They just paid their severance package but they have not paid they pension, which is supposed to go to the PFA.
“We do it peacefully and the way we do it is to ensure that all PHCN installations are shut down all over Nigeria; then we carry out a protest peacefully for the government to come and ask us what is happening and we will be able to tell them so that you will know who is lying,” Ayeni said.
In Gombe, workers locked up the company’s offices. They carried placards with various inscriptions, saying they would not allow the handover of the company to private investors until their entitlements were settled.
Addressing workers in Gombe, the leader of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Mr Yakubu Dung, urged the Federal Government to settle the labour issues.
In Kano, the North Zonal Chapter of the NUEE held a peaceful demonstration over the matter.
The General-Secretary of the union, Mr Joe Ajaero, said the demonstration was because of the government’s “silence” on their entitlements.
The Chairman of the NLC in Kano State, Malam Yunusa Danguguwa, expressed the congress’ support to the unions, saying it was determined to ensure the resolution of the stalemate with the government.
The protesting workers, who besieged the PHCN premises, carried placards, with inscriptions such as: “No to enslavement, settle our entitlements before habding over, we will resist forceful handover.’’
“We are using today as stage one to protest and express our dismay in the protest, described as peaceful, that is why all the workers are within the compound of the headquarters of PHCN, representing, Kano, Jigawa and Katsina.’’
The Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, in a statement by its President-General, B.I.Opara and General Secretary A. Ogunsegha decried the delay in payment of their entitlements before the handing over to investors.
In Lagos, placards in front of the head office of the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, one of the privatised companies. The workers carried placards with inscriptions, such as, “Jonathan, Sambo liars, pay us our entitlements,” and Investors stay away, govt must pay us our benefits first”, among others.
Stationed in front of the Ikeja office were vans loaded with riot policemen.
The spokesman of Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, Pekun Adeyanju, said he learnt on Sundaythere was a directive from the union that the office should be locked and the gates were locked by the union.
The Chairman of NUEE, Lagos zone, Comrade Adeleke Ibrahim, told The Nation: “Workers of PHCN are protesting the injustice meted to them by the Federal Government. Injustice in the sense that labour issues as agreed with the government have not been settled and they are handing over the assets to investors.
“The few PHCN members of staff, which the government claimed to have paid, were paid half of the benefits, half in the sense that the agreement stipulates that the severance package and pension should be paid together but only the severance benefit was paid.”
– The Nation