Prof Chinedu Nebo
• NCP to meet next Tuesday
Tokunbo Adedoja and Linda Eroke
Employees of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) Thursday warned the federal government against handing over PHCN facilities to investors without the resolution of labour issues in the sector.
Speaking under the umbrella of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), the employees warned investors to steer clear from PHCN facilities pending the resolution of all labour-related issues.
The union, in a petition to the Power Minister, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, expressed regret over government’s unwillingness to conclusively address the labour issues in the sector before making public its intention to commence the handover of PHCN facilities to investors.
The letter signed by the union’s Secretary, Joe Ajaero, accused government of making bogus statements to earn public trust and credibility, while the issues that originally constitute cogs in the privatisation process are left unattended.
The union listed the unresolved labour issues to include: haphazard implementation of payments of terminal benefits, non-payment of Retirement Saving Fund to Pension Fund Administrator (PFA), non remittance of two per cent of the union’s deductions as agreed, non implementation of 10 per cent equity share due to the workers, non-payment of retirees who disengaged since 2011 and non regularisation of some of the casuals already indentified.
It pointed out that members have shown enough patriotism and high level of understanding in the discourse and warned that it can no longer guarantee the safety of any investor who may wish to dare the union.
The letter reads: “Having patiently observed the actions and inactions of the federal government in relation to the privatisation process of the power sector, especially as it affects the resolution of labour issues; we regret to state that the government seems to be unwilling to prove her genuine willingness to conclusively address the issues.
More worrisome is government’s resort to Media propaganda by making bogus statements to earn public trust and credibility, while the issues that originally constitute cogs in the privatisation process are left unattended. We have noted of late that the Power Minister, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, has made public the intention of government to commence the handover of PHCN facilities to investors.
As a major stakeholder in the power sector, we cannot sit back and pretend that all is well in the whole process. We therefore advise that all investors should steer clear from PHCN facilities until all labour and labour related issues are conclusively resolved and implemented. As we cannot guarantee the safety of any person, who may wish to dare.
However, the authorities have scheduled next Tuesday for a meeting of the Technical Committee of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) to deliberate on the ongoing privatisation of the PHCN. Previous efforts to meet have allegedly been frustrated by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
THISDAY had reported the disquiet among members of the Technical Committee of NCP over the inability of the committee to meet on the ongoing privatisation of PHCN because the BPE had failed to provide the required logistics for such meeting.
Committee members were said to be particularly worried that they could not meet to deliberate on the ongoing privatisation process of the unbundled power company, at a time when activities in the sector had increased, following the payment of the 75 per cent outstanding balance of bid prices for acquired assets by seven preferred bidders for successor generation and distribution companies from the PHCN.
The Tuesday meeting was triggered by a memo written by the Chairman of NCP Technical Committee, Mr. Atedo Peterside, which was sent to members, explaining how he had tried to convene a meeting as demanded by the committee's mandate, but had not been successful because the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) did not provide the necessary logistics
A copy of the memo obtained by THISDAY showed that the Technical Committee was of the view that efforts to convene its meeting was deliberately frustrated by the Director General of the BPE, Mr. Benjamin Ezra Dikki, so as to keep the committee in the dark on the unfolding development in the PHCN privatisation process.
"As you are all aware, the Technical Committee is an advisory/due process 'watch-dog' over the BPE and we are accountable to the NCP. Accordingly, I find the DG's surreptitious attempt to keep us 'in the dark' objectionable in the extreme. For the record, I do not believe for one second that the DG is acting on instructions from above. His 'body language' and enthusiastic evasiveness suggest that he is the initiator who has proactively been looking for ways to avoid having to transparently table issues/updates before this committee."
Out of the 10 bidders approved by NCP for the distribution companies (Discos) created from the PHCN, nine met the August 21 deadline by paying the outstanding 75 per cent of the transaction value for the power assets. Only Interstate Electric Limited did not meet the deadline. It could only pay a paltry $12 million and could not raise the outstanding balance of $93 million.
Its promoter, Offor, was reported to be lobbying to get the BPE and NCP to grant his company a 20-day extension to pay for the distribution company. While the BPE acceded to his request, THISDAY gathered that the chairman of the Technical Committee of the NCP, Mr. Peterside, wrote a letter to BPE insisting the company's bid should be cancelled and the reserve bidder, Eastern Electric Nigeria Limited, invited to acquire Enugu Disco.