BY VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
LAGOS — MINISTER of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji, yesterday, challenged workers of Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, to demand from their leaders, the whereabouts of their pension funds.
Nnaji in a statement by his Special Assistant on Power (Media), Ogbuagu Anikwe, said the workers should find out from the three trade unions in the power sector, how hundreds of billions of dollars purportedly contributed over the decades by them towards their pension scheme disappeared.
It would be recalled that the three unions in the electricity sector—National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE; Senior Staff of Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEC and National Union of Pensioners, NUP, Electricity Sector, have continued to demand for the N400 billion said to have accrued to their superannuation fund as part of the settlement.
They had claimed that 25 per cent of workers’ salaries was being deducted by Federal Government appointed management of PHCN over the years into the PHCN workers’ superannuation fund.
According to Nnaji, it has become necessary to ask PHCN employees to inquire from their labour leaders, what happened to the money because the company’s management and the labour leaders were the only trustees of the pension scheme.
Prior to the introduction of Pension Reform Act in July 2004, the state power utility operated an in-house pension scheme, which enabled the workers to enjoy a scheme different from the contributory scheme most public sector organisations operated.
He said the PHCN management had over the years provided N3 billion annually for the payment of retirement benefits to members, who were retiring individually, making most workers believe that the scheme was well funded from the 25 per cent deductions purportedly made by the company over the decades.
“However, with the impending privatisation of 17 PHCN successor companies, which necessitates mass retirements, there are practically no funds in the account to pay the severance package of the 50,000 PHCN employees. Contrary to the propaganda by some labour activists to the effect that there was N88 billion in the pension account as of June 30, 2004, when the old scheme ceased to operate, what was available in the account administered by the union leaders and the PHCN management was a mere N3 billion.
“It is, therefore, incumbent on PHCN employees, whether retired or serving, to find out from their union leaders, who are the signatories to the bank account, what happened to the difference of N85 billion, in the interests of transparency, probity and accountability.”