By Clara Nwachukwu
The Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, has clarified that the N130 billion approved by President Goodluck Jonathan, is for the payment of anticipated liabilities from labour issues in the ongoing reform of the electricity sector.

The clarification follows assertions by electricity workers that not only are the unions unaware of such approval, nor is the amount a subject of negotiation.

The President General and General Secretary of the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, Messrs Bede Opara and Abiodun Ogunsegha, respectively, said, “That the President had set aside N130 billion to address labour issues in the reform is coming to us as a surprise, since we had not negotiated or discussed the totality of payment on severance benefits to our members.”

Making the clarification in a statement on Thursday, a spokesperson for the Bureau, Mr Chukwuma Nwokoh, said the N130 billion was “based on consultants’ assessment of likely liability in the determination of pension claims of all workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.”

The BPE defended that the amount had to be budgeted, pending the determination of a final figure on liabilities. “What the Federal Government has done is to make provision for N130 billion in anticipation of what the pension liability could be.

Perhaps, it is lost on the unionists that their travails on monetisation arrears, which was left unattended for seven years was due to the fact that it was not budgeted for. This challenge was addressed by President Goodluck Jonathan when it was captured in the 2010 supplementary budget,” the Bureau added.

In retrospect the BPE asked, “Has Mr. President done wrong to approve that N130billion be set aside in the 2010 supplementary budget for the full payment of all financial benefits that would accrue to PHCN workers that would be affected in the process of the reform in the sector.

It is important to point out the significance of this development. Hitherto, the settlement of terminal benefits of workers in privatised entities was from privatisation proceeds.

But the desire of Mr. President to ensure the successful privatisation of the 18 successor companies led to this novel decision by the Federal Government.”

Electricity workers were miffed that such a decision could have been taken without due consultations with them as major stakeholders in the electricity sector, saying that such attitude was responsible for the woes of already privatised government entreprises.

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