The federal government has said it will go ahead with the planned physical handover of the privatised successor generation and distribution companies of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) today.
Also, in order to avoid legal action against it by the new private owners of the 14 successor companies, Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, stated yesterday in Abuja that the physical handover of the power assets would be consummated by the government as planned because the new owners deserve to take over their acquired power assets.
Nebo, who spoke to THISDAY on the telephone, yesterday explained that government had remained extremely magnanimous to the demands of PHCN workers and expects a similar gesture from them.
He said notwithstanding alleged threats to disrupt the physical handover process, the government, as a matter of obligation, would go ahead with its plan and that it would consider such threats as economic sabotage of its efforts.
“The handover will go on as planned because government has to live by its pledge to handover these assets on November 1. This government in particular will not want to be seen as a fraudulent one, therefore we would not want a situation where we say good morning to anybody and they would turn to look at their watches,” he said.
He noted that the government had largely lived up to its obligations to the workers as regard to the payment of their severance entitlements, adding that its efforts to complete payment of entitlements of a few of the workers whose biometric details were yet to be audited properly should not inspire threats from labour union.
Nebo said: “Anybody who is against the conclusion of this process is obviously not a friend of Nigeria; the new owners of the company have invested money to acquire these assets and it is right that government lives up to its obligation.
“Government has lived up to its obligations to the unions and they must recognise that there is nowhere in the world that this kind of gesture had been extended in a privatisation process; government may not have completed payments of the benefits by 100 per cent but it insists that its ongoing audit of a few members of the worker should not become an issue.
“How can you ask government to pay workers whose records are incomplete? Workers who came into service with one name eventually tender different names for the biometric exercise and you expect government to go ahead to pay them; that is not possible.”
The minister added: “Again, the National Pension Commission (PenCom) rather than publish the details of the pension of the workers, had requested for further clarification of details of the workers. Government however wants the unions to know that it will pay up those that are yet to be paid once their biometric audit is concluded.”
The minister's remarks were made just as the federal government and PHCN labour unions last night agreed to proceed with the planned handover of the companies to their new owners unhindered.
Rising from a meeting that lasted for over eight hours in Abuja, the government and the unions comprising the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) and the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), declared their collective consent to the planned handover today.
The parties resolved that all outstanding issues involving the 40,698 workers that had already being cleared should now be resolved before November 15, while outstanding workers who are currently undergoing biometric verification will receive their pay by the end of November.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Power, Godknows Igali said the issues of retired PHCN workers who are yet to receive their pension will get urgent attention following their expected subjection to biometric verification.
The parties also agreed on the collectively signed document that in accordance with the December 2012 agreement, the right of the workers to own 10 per cent of the privatised utilities would be respected and that the process of revalidation of all genuine retired workers of PHCN be completed by November 15.
However such workers shall remain in employment until all their benefits are paid.