The Feud between BPE, Electricity Workers

The Bureau of Public Enterprises has dismissed the allegation by the National Union of Electricity Workers on non-payment of severance packages to the defunct staff of PHCN, stating that it has paid 43,275 staff with about 4.5 percent of those unverified remaining

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Jan. 27, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

THE brouhaha between the federal government and the National Association of Electricity Employees, NUEE, is still lingering. On Monday, January 13, NUEE officials led its members on a spontaneous protest in different states of the federation against further the delay in the payment of severance packages to some staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria which was privatised recently. The protest, which took place in Lagos, Abuja, Jebba, Ibadan and Bauchi, followed the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum the union recently gave to the federal government to address their grievances. The workers had alleged that banks were deliberately withholding their payment months after funds were released by the federal government, among other things.

The protesters at the Ikeja Distribution Company and other districts offices in Lagos, said that they would shut down power installations nationwide if their severance packages and other entitlements were not paid, adding that power outage in the country will worsen if the federal government fails to pay their entitlements.

The unions protest came on the heels of a statement issued January 11, and signed by Chigbo Anichebe, head, Public Communications, the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, to set the records on the privatisation exercise and payment of entitlements to workers straight because of some falsehood being peddled by union officials. According to the BPE, it would not ordinarily joining issues with critical stakeholders in any privatisation process but was doing so now because it had become necessary to put the records straight following the information given by the Joseph Ajaero, general secretary of NUEE at a press conference, which we believe was not obtained from a correct source. “The correct sources are the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Power and the Bureau of Public Enterprises. It is important to note from the onset that since the privatisation process of NEPA (later PHCN) kicked off in 1999, labour, as a critical stakeholder has been in every committee where negotiations were held and decisions taken. This is beside labour being represented at the highest policy making organ on privatisation, the National Council on Privatisation.”

Joe Ajaero
Ajaero

The BPE recalled also that the committee that midwifed the agreement with power sector unions was chaired by no other person than the secretary to the government of the federation. “This is to underscore the importance the Federal Government attaches to Labour. One would have thought that given this open access; Labour would utilise these channels instead of going to the press with wrong information to create the impression that government was doing nothing.”

“In direct response to the numbers being thrown around, we must point out that Mr. Ajaero is aware that the total PHCN workforce presented to government is 47,913. Mr. Ajaero is also aware that out of this number, 43, 375 have been verified and validated; as bona fide staff of PHCN and have been paid both gratuity and pension component remitted to their RSA accounts.

“To effect the payment of the 43, 375 staff, the Bureau has remitted N361,024,432,338.48 to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.  That brings the payment made with regards to the validated staff to 94.79% of the workforce. Validation of another 2,382 has been concluded and payments are in process. This brings the total number of staff verified to 45, 757 or 95.5% of the purported staff strength of PHCN. “

BPE said “the Committee chaired by the permanent secretary, federal ministry of power is still working tirelessly to validate the remaining 4.5% of the work force. These are purported staff that the committee has so far not been able to obtain documents/information to validate their claims to being staff of PHCN. The union is very much aware of this. Does the union want Government to pay ghost workers?”

As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, The BPE said the challenges being faced in resolving issues affecting these outstanding 4.5 percent staff, include irregular staff IDs, duplication in staff numbers and names, lack of or irregular Retirement Savings Account, RSA, pin and account numbers. In some cases, the beneficiaries failed to sign or thumb print their benefit statements or inserted wrong passport photographs.

“There were also a few cases of corrupted biometric data or pictures. Most of these have been addressed by fresh biometric captures as was done for Enugu Disco.  Some staff also failed to supply the new NUBAN account numbers.  All these, the leadership of labor are aware of, since they are members of the Presidential Committee on the Resolution of PHCN Labor Issues,” BPE said.

It said that the audit verification of 4,034 retirees’ for the payment of gratuities has been completed and the audit team has commenced the collation of the results. A biometric capture of the retirees would be conducted soon before payment will be made to them and the families of the deceased retirees.

“The first phase of the exercise was to resolve the entitlements of active staff to facilitate hand over to the core investors. The entitlements of retirees are now being squarely addressed. We challenge Mr. Ajaero to supply the list of names of the 25, 000 PHCN staff he claims have not been paid and the mysterious 10, 000 and 5, 000 others being bandied. The issues being currently handled on the payment exercise of PHCN staff are all residual issues, which are normal in any exercise involving such huge numbers,” Anichebe said.