20th July, 2012
In Abuja, military men have sealed off the Maitama District National Headquarters of Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.
P.M.NEWS gathered that the armed soldiers who were seen manning strategic spots at the vicinity were drafted to the PHCN premises following last Tuesday’s refusal of the workers of the electricity company to allow officials of Manitoba Hydro of Canada from gaining access into the premises.
Manitoba Hydro International is the winner of the bid to manage the TCN through a bidding process conducted by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
The workers said they will not allow the privatisation to go on until the government settles outstanding labour and welfare issues.
TCN is one of the 18 successor companies of the PHCN in the power reform road map.
The company is domiciled in the Maitama office of PHCN.
The workers, who described TCN as the backbone of PHCN operation said allowing the take over would mean the actualisation of the privatisation process.
The workers therefore stopped officials from power ministry and Manitoba from doing the formal hand over of the headquarters of the PHCN, where the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, office is located, to the Canadian firm last Tuesday.
It was learnt that the workers were prevented from embarking on protests over the planned privatisation on Wednesday by the soldiers.
Outstanding issues the workers want government to address before they will allow the privatisation to go on include the severance package for all workers, 53 percent salary increase, and payment of N18,000 minimum wage to them.
Barth Nnaji, the Minister of Power, has said there is no going back on the handing over of the company to the private manager and the entire PHCN privatisation process.
He also dismissed claims that there are outstanding issues the government is yet to settle with the workers.
Meanwhile, PHCN workers in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, Friday commenced a warning strike to protest the take over of Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, by Manitoba Hydro International, a Canadian firm.
In areas visited by P.M.NEWS across the state, PHCN offices were shut. Workers were denied access to their various offices.
PHCN offices visited includes: Ipaja-Ayobo, Agege, Ikeja, Egbeda – Akowonjo, Lagos Island, Igando-Ikotun, Abule-Egba, Ogba, Ojodu-Berger, Ojo, Ajeromi-Ifelodun and Amuwo-Odofin.
In most of the offices, members of PHCN staffs were seen in front of their offices discussing the situation.
A PHCN staff who volunteered to talk to P.M.NEWS under anonymity said that some of them were owed five months salaries by the federal government, adding that government is insensitive to their plight.
“We are civil servants and we have the right to demand for our rights. Some of us are being owed more than five months salaries and government is not doing anything about it. We have families that we are taking care of and how does the government expect us to survive without no pay?
“The strike started today throughout Lagos State and we don’t know the shape it will take. It might last for an hour, two or more days, that we can’t say yet. It is not about salaries alone. There are other issues too,” he said.
According to Agbaje Agbabiaka, “strike is not new to us in this country because that is the only language our leaders understand. If you are aware, all our stations have been taken over by military men. A government that is supposed to be for us is now against us.”
At the Akowonjo business unit of PHCN located at 41, Idimu Road, Egbeda, Lagos, the gate was under lock and customers were seen milling around the office.
A source who pleaded anonymity told P.M.NEWS: “Because the Federal Government wants to privatise PHCN and its workers don’t want it, they have been on an indefinite strike action for some days.
Some of the people around the office claimed ignorance of why it was locked and advised our correspondent to call at PHCN headquarters at Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos for clarification.
When P.M.NEWS visited the Alausa office of PHCN, it was locked while workers were nowhere to be found around the office.
A member of PHCN workers executive, Christopher Abodunde said, “we asked our staff to go home until the government listens to us. I don’t know how long the strike will last.
—Oluokun Ayorinde, Nnamdi Felix/Abuja, Ayo Lawal, Yisa Jamiu & Dedeigbo Ayodeji