Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji
Carl Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji Saturday described as false and misleading a report that some junior workers in the power ministry had shut down the Shiroro dam which supplies water to the Shiroro hydro station.
Reacting to the report through a statement by his special assistant (Media), Mr. Ogbuagu Anikwe, the minister alleged that “the reports were planted by a handful of professional trade unionists in the leadership of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) who do not consider anything sacred in their self-assigned mission of agitation and propaganda (agit-prop) against the ongoing power sector reform.”
The statement explained that Shiroro dam is working impressively, claiming that “on the day the false and misleading report appeared, it was generating 550 megawatts out of the designed capacity of 600MW.
“In fact, it is doing better than the 760MW Kainji hydro power plant built in 1968 but had not been overhauled until now.
“Shiroro is a major contributor to the unprecedented quantum of 4,237MW plus 70MW spinning reserve which the nation has been generating since Monday, August 7, 2012, to the delight of all our people.”
The minister said his ministry was “very much aware that there are some elements viciously opposed to improved electricity supply and are working with forces benefitting from the corrupt and decadent order which has for decades kept the nation down, impeded economic growth and adversely affected social life,” alleging further that sponsors of the controversial reports merely hide under the canopy of labour activism “to actively and secretly promote the business interests of a notorious cabal in the power sector. He called on the Nigerian people “to watch out for these saboteurs working against improved power supply.”
According to the minister, the federal government remains resolute in the determination to end forever the electricity blight.
“It has consequently taken all appropriate measures to safeguard the huge electricity assets across the country and the dedicated men and women work day and night in these facilities to ensure that constant and quality electricity is available to every Nigerian as of every right. The nation appreciates the commitment, patriotism, sacrifice of these conscientious citizens in the power sector,” the minister said.
He explained that in recognition of the vital role of the power sector workers in national development, the federal government approved a 50 percent increase in salary for the PHCN staff since June of 2011, set aside for them a percentage of shares of the 17 PHCN successor companies being privatised, converted some 10,000 casual workers to permanent staff, and paid the staff N57 billion for the monetised benefits denied them since 2003 when the monetisation policy was introduced.
He disclosed that the government has agreed to pay 25 percent of their salary as part of the severance in the wake of the privatisation of PHCN assets, even though they did not make any contributions to the pension scheme up to July 1, 2004, when the Pension Reform Act came into effect.
“Despite the PHCN failure to comply with this Act and the failure of both the PHCN management and the workers to contribute 7.5% each of the workers’ salary to the pension scheme as required by the law, the government has offered to pay 15% of each PHCN employee’s salary as part of the retirement benefits.
“We would like to assure all Nigerians that the worst days are over as far as electricity is concerned. The current improvement is not irreversible. The programme for power development in Nigeria to international standards is very much on course, and the whole world is convinced that Nigeria is finally on the right electricity track,” the minister said in the statement.