Employees of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria have declared their readiness to engage the Federal Government in a showdown over what they described as the “flawed” bidding process for the nations’ power firms.
After declaring two weeks ago that they would not quit PHCN offices until they were fully paid their entitlements, the workers vowed on Saturday to halt further negotiations with the government.
They also said the planned sale of the power generation and distribution companies through the bidding process undertaken by the Bureau of Public Enterprise would fail.
Their new resolve came as a result of government’s continued insistence to sell the power companies at what the workers considered to be “give-away prices” and their neglect despite earlier agreements reached by both parties.
The General Secretary, National Union of Electricity Employees, Mr. Joe Ajaero, said, “The bidding process has opened another wound that must be healed before we settle the matter in the power sector. The unresolved labour issues are issues that do not require negotiations any longer. They don’t require negotiations because our entitlement is our entitlement and it must be paid. Whether you are now dashing the companies to your friends, you have to look for our money and pay us.
“We are ready for them this time around since they have decided not to carry the unions along because part of the agreement made by the unions and the Hassan Sunmonu-led negotiation team was that any time the evaluation of PHCN is to be carried out, the unions will be involved.”
For close to one year, unions in the power sector had been negotiating with the government on the payments of workers’ severance packages to allow for successful transition of the power firms to private investors.
Though most of the meetings between both parties had been deadlocked, some members of the unions were optimistic that the mutual resolution of the issues would soon be reached.
However, the recent results of the bidding process for the sale of the power firms did not go down well with the unions.
Ajaero said, “We want to tell Nigerians that PHCN makes N300bn every year and they have sold it finally for N200bn. I weep for this economy, management or administration as the case may be. It shows that there is something wrong and that which is wrong, we must dig it and find it out.
“As for the distribution companies they are selling, the land which these offices occupy is almost worth N1tn. This is excluding the structures or buildings on the land. So, this is daylight fraud.”
In his reaction, the President, National Union of Electricity Employees, Mr. Musa Mansur, said, “It is also important to note that Nigerians, through the National Assembly, have discredited the activities of BPE, that it did not have the capacity to continue to sell the assets of the nation. This is because it has failed in the previous privatisation exercises and the Senate recommended measures to be taken by the government to address the anomaly, that is, to reorganise BPE completely before it begins to think of selling other assets.
“But the government has not heeded this advice or recommendation of the Senate, because government officials feel they can do whatever they want.”