September 30, 2013

Electricity workers protest handing over of PHCN to new investors



Lagos –  Some disengaged workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in Lagos and Edo on Monday staged protests over non-payment of their terminal benefits before handing over to the new investors.

The President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday handed over the certificates and licence to buyers of successor companies of PHCN.

The  gesture signaled the government’s disengagement from the management of the plants.

The Federal Government would, however, continue to oversee the transmission network in the interim.

 All the PHCN offices in Lagos were under lock and key, while the workers, serving or retired, carried placards with various inscriptions demanding for payment of their benefits.

Some of the inscriptions read: “Pay our money; we are ready to leave, “Over 50 per cent of workers’ benefits are still outstanding” and “FG should pay us before handing over.”

In Auchi, the workers also stormed the major streets calling on the Federal Government to pay their entitlements before handing over to the new investors.

Mr Adeleke Ibrahim, the chairman, Lagos State Chapter, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), said that the protest was because of government’s failure to pay them before handling the companies to new owners.

Ibrahim said that the Federal Government had not paid severance package, pensions and gratuities to about  50,951 workers as at Sept. 27.

“It is expected that the agencies saddled with the responsibility of paying the workers’ benefits would have done that before officially handing over to the new investors.

“PHCN workers nationwide will not leave their offices until all our severance packages are duly paid by the government’s agencies saddled with the computation of the packages,’’ he said.

Mr Olusegun Afolorunso, the NUEE chairman in Eko Electricity Distribution Company, said that only 25 per cent of the workers had been paid.

“We were directed on Sunday night by our leaders that all our offices should be locked in protest against non-payment of our severance packages.

“Though, the Federal Government has commenced payment, only 25 per cent of the entire workers nationwide were settled.

“The new investors just want to come and take over our offices as directed by the Federal Government without settling our benefits that is why we are protesting,“ he said.

Mr Ganiyu Iyaniwura, the union chairman in PHCN Ijora Business District, said, “we planned our own independent protest because of the non-payment of our arrears by the Eko Electricity Distribution Company.

“We are being owed backlogs of 11 months from 2011 to 2012 before the National Electricity Liability Management (NELCO) took over.

“We want to know the plan the Federal Government has for us because when you are handing over to new companies they are supposed to take over on a clean slate.

“The new companies that are coming do not know us. So, the Federal Government should settle us first,“ he said.

Mr Adebola Adedoja, the Lagos Island Chapter chairman of the National Union of Pensioners, said that the Federal Government still owed pensioners some benefits.

Mr Shaibu Nassir, the NUEE Secretary in Edo, said that the protest was to register the workers’ grievances against the handing over of PHCN to the new investors without the settlement of their severance packages.

 “The Federal Government and the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE) cannot hand over PHCN to new investors without settling the labour issues as earlier agreed with the union.

“All our entitlements have not been settled by the Federal Government and BPE officials are all over the PHCN offices across the states planning to hand over,’’ he said.

Mr Kareem Iluedo, the Chairman of NUEE, Auchi Chapter, said that Federal Government had not paid majority of the PHCN workers.

“We are not against privatisation, but all benefits accrued to us must be paid before the handing over.

“We are ready to work along with the Federal Government, but all the labour issues should be settled.

“We are afraid of being thrown into the labour market without collecting our full entitlements,’’ he said. (NAN)