PHCN Workers Threaten Showdown

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Thousands of disengaged workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, have threatened a showdown with the Federal Government, following its plans to physically hand over the defunct company to new investors on Friday.

The reason for the showdown, according to some of the PHCN workers who spoke with our correspondents, is the delay in payment of severance benefits of about 35% of the workforce.

In some of the PHCN offices visited by our correspondent across the state on Thursday, activities were paralysed while the workers were seen discussing their fate.

Policemen were deployed to some of the PHCN offices to forestall break down of law and order. Policemen were seen at Badia and Marina area offices of the PHCN.

Confirming  the likelihood  of showdown, PHCN Senior Manager Public Affairs Ijora district, Ayiwe Peter said that they are not against the hand over, but want the government to pay the workers before they hand over.

Peter said should the government go ahead to hand over without paying the workers, the union will pull their members out and there will be total black out.

He advised Nigerians to prepare for alternative source of electricity so that they would not be caught up in darkness.

Contrary to Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) statement that at least 84 per cent of the workers had been paid off, while others would be paid between Wednesday and Thursday, the workers said banks had refused to honour the government’s directive to pay them.

They threatened that if their entitlements were not paid by the end of October, the entire workforce of PHCN in all the 36 states would embark on indefinite strike.

They therefore appealed to government to ensure that all the agreements it signed with the workers were met to avert the strike.

A worker, Abiodun Yakub, while speaking with P.M.NEWS at their Ikeja distribution office, stated that the workers will not relent until their demands were met.

According to him, they are not against privatisation or handing over the companies to new owners but their salaries, allowances and gratuities must be paid in full.

Another worker, Mrs. Adenike Omolaso, who spoke with our correspondent at Egbeda, stated that the government was just being insensitive to the plight of the PHCN workers.

“If they are disengaging us, they should pay us our money in full,” she said.

Okechukwu Henry on his part stated that the Federal Government has shown that it is an inhumane government.

“If not, how will they ask us to go and they will not pay us? This is sheer man’s inhumanity to man,” he said.

The successor companies expected to be handed over to the new investors include Abuja Distribution Company (owned by KANN Consortium Utility), Benin Distribution Company (Vigeo Power Consortium), Eko Distribution Company (West Power & Gas), Enugu Distribution Company (Interstate Electrics Ltd) and Ibadan Distribution Company (Integrated Energy Distribution & Marketing Limited).

Others are: Ikeja Distribution Company (NEDC/KEPCO Consortium), Jos Distribution Company (Aura Energy Limited), Kano Distribution Company (Sahelian Power SPV Limited), Port  Harcourt Distribution Company (4Power Consortium) and Yola Distribution Company (Integrated Energy Distribution & Marketing Limited).

The power generation companies expected to be handed over are Shiroro (owned by North-South Power Company), Kainji (Mainstream Energy Solutions Ltd), Geregu (Amperion Power Distribution) and Ughelli (Transcorp Ughelli Power Plc).

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Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Godknows Igali, said on Wednesday that the Federal Government had disbursed N294.51 billion to the disengaged PHCN workers.

Igali made the disclosure to State House correspondents after a special preparatory meeting to strategise on the 1 November physical handover of PHCN successor companies to private investors.

The meeting was chaired by Vice-President Namadi Sambo at the Presidential Villa.

Specifically, Igali said that N214.22 billion was paid as severance directly to the beneficiaries’ personal accounts, while N80.29 billion was paid as gratuity to beneficiaries’ pension fund administrators.

He said that out of the 47,913 PHCN members of staff who went through the severance process, 40.093 had been fully paid, leaving out 7,820.

From the 7,820 staff, Igali said that 605 were validated on Tuesday and would be paid before the end of the week.

Igali said that the remaining beneficiaries yet to be validated for payment had one issue or the other in their data capturing and electronic payment processes.

“Some members in Enugu Distribution Company, about 1,478 have their biometric capture corrupted by virus and a new consultant has been moved to Enugu to recapture them.

“Those workers would not be accommodated.

“Additional 929 other workers from all over the country also had their biometric data corrupted.

“This is a usual thing that happens when you are dealing with such large numbers and we are bringing them to Abuja at the expense of government for their biometric data to be recaptured so that they can be paid their entitlement immediately.

“There were also duplications of various natures, names were duplicated and accounts were duplicated.

“For example, there are cases where people have three names and while filling, they put only two names,” he said.

Igali said there were cases of about 2,500 staff that were very bad, but still being handled by the committee.

The Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Mr Benjamin Dikki, said that with the full take-over of the power plants by the private sector, electricity situation would gradually improve.

He said there would be influx of fund that would improve power supply in six months.

The Director-General, Budget Office, Dr Bright Okogu, said the privatisation of the power sector, though, a complex one, the government was pleased to have reached the present stage.

He commended the labour leaders for their maturity and described the payment of the workers as a demonstration of government’s commitment to ensure that the process was successful.

—Jamiu Yisa & Cyriacus Izuekwe