Electricity workers tackle Fed Govt over delayed compensation

The power sector is fraught with problems, such as shortage of gas, meters, paucity of funds, and poor generation. This happens amid plans by the electricity workers to resume industrial actions in the next two weeks, if the Federal Government fails to compensate the over 2,000 workers, who were disengaged during the privatisation of the sector in 2013, among others,

The power sector is yet to get over its manpower problems, caused by the sales of the unbundled assets of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria(PHCN) in 2013.

Caused by the failure of the Federal Government to re-instate and compensate the over 2,000 workers sacked during the sales of the sector, the issue has continued to pitch the government against the stakeholders in the value chain.

While the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), an umbrella body of   workers in the sector, is not ready to bulge on the issue, the government is not ready for either the compensation or any other things.

While this lasted, NUEE is planning to resume its strike in the next two weeks, if nothing is done to ameloriarate the condition of the families, whose employment have been terminated by the government, coupled with the fact that nothing was done, by the government, to compensate them.

Addressing the media last week, in Lagos, NUAEE National President, Mr Joe Ajaero, said the stakeholders have reneged on their promise to provide for welfare of the affected workers of defunct PHCN.

According to him, the union has taken it upon itself the responsibility of building schools for the children of the workers, who disengaged from service, adding that many of the children are orphaned.

He said it is not the duty of neither the power generation companies(GenCos) nor the distribution companies(DisCos) to take over the administration of the schools, adding that a separate body should be constituted to manage the schools and other activities, which concerns the families of the sacked workers.

He said the government has failed compensate the workers and other aggrements that were reached last December 11, adding that the development is one of the reasons the union is resuming its strike action, this year.

He said union would be force to seize power installations across the country, among taking other drastic measures on the issues.

Prior to this, critical stakeholders, such as BPE, the DisCos and the GenCos and others have waded into the  matter to resolve it amicably.

However, the issue has remained unresolved, as the Federal Government and the electricity workers were unable to agree on the modalities of paying the compensation, among solving other issues, no thanks to the last-minute disaggrements on the issue during a meeting with the Presidency and the union.

Origin of the impasse

The crises dated back to the pre-privatisation era, when the investors were at logger heads over whether to purchase the assets and the liabilities of the assets of the defunct PHCN.Though the Federal Government through the  assets committee set up, to provide a seamless transition to the privately governed power  sector from a 100 per cent publicly owned electricity sector, aggred on what sizes or portions of the assets, which the new investors must be holding in the privatised programme, the issue did not go down well with all the stakeholders, especially the electricity workers union.

Power Sector Reform Act 2005

One major cause of the impasse between the Federal Government and the workers is the issue of rightful applications of the provisions of the Act, which set up the power sector programme.

According to the act, power stations, which were owned by the new private investors, who bought the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, should be transffered to the owners- the investors, and not the schools that were originally established by the workers union.

This, Ajaero said, was uncalled for, adding the money used in establishing schools for the union, was donations from the members, and not from the sales of the power assets.

Stakeholders’opinions

The Chief Executive Officer, Change Partners International International, Mr Akachukwu Okafor, said the sector does not have enough money and as a result, it would be difficult for the operators to garner enough funds for the emerging activities in the sector.

He said the electricity workers were asking for their rights.

Okafor said: “The electricity workers were demanding what is rigtfully theirs. Unfortunately, the sector is not solvent and as a result, it would be difficult to determine where and how the government would raise the funds, to meet their needs.

He, however, said it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to keep the national grid stable.

He said it is expected of the government to keep actors and stakeholders engaged to supply electricity to Nigerians, provided that they were ready to pay for it.

Also, the Chief Executive officer, Power Cam Nigeria Limited, Mr Biodun Ogunleye, said payment of oustanding, owed stakeholders would engender growth.

He said compensation of the former workers of PHCN is key for the growth of the sector, urging the government to fast-track the paying the money and other emoluments, which they need to live a good life.

Preserving power installations

Nigeria, the former Country’s President, Inteenational Association of Energy Economists(IAEE), Prof Adeola Akininisiju, said the country is battling with poor liquidity, going by the crises in the oil global market, adding that the country does not have money to keep provide new electricity installations in the country.This, Akinnisiju said, is the reason the government must try and protect its assets.

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