President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday approved the sum of N384bn for the payment of severance benefits to employees of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria who will be disengaged from the services of the company.
This was in fulfilment of the agreement reached between the labour unions in the power sector and the Federal Government during a recent peace talk brokered by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim.
Controversies about the payment of the severance package, the amount to be paid and the number of beneficiaries have been core issues hindering the privatisation of power firms in the country.
About 50,000 PHCN workers and 4,000 whose employment has not been regularised will be paid off from the amount to pave the way for the full privatisation of the successor companies of PHCN.
The implication of this is that the workers that will be absorbed by the new owners of the successor companies will operate under new conditions of service in line with the agreement with Labour.
The ministers of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu; and Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, disclosed the President’s approval to State House correspondents in Abuja on Wednesday.
Wogu said the Federal Government would spend N384bn on the severance package, which payment will start on Thursday (today).
The minister said the payment would finally put an end to labour issues in the power sector.
He said, “I want to inform you that the agreed benefits accruing to the staff of PHCN in the last negotiation between government and the labour unions have been approved by President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Payment of the agreed sum will commence immediately and that brings to an end the labour issues relating to the non-payment of benefits.
“So, we enjoin labour unions in the power sector to work closely with the Ministry of Power in the payment of these benefits as agreed. The process will commence tomorrow (today) and I want to assure them that this brings to an end, the labour issues in the sector.
“This payment is only for PHCN staff and in determining who should benefit, labour and government conducted a biometric exercise. The number of people benefiting is clearly defined by this agreement.
“The total package is approximately N384bn in full payment of all outstanding benefits that we agreed upon. It will be done within the best principle of transparency and accountability.”
Nebo expressed the hope that the approval of the payment would further encourage the PHCN workers to continue to serve patriotically and ensure that no hitches were recorded in government’s efforts to realise its power sector roadmap.
He said, “We are very grateful to the staff of PHCN for all that they have done to make sure that power is available all over the country. We do hope that they will continue to serve patriotically to ensure that no hitches are put in place in the realisation of the entire power sector road map.
“We want to make sure that eventually, Nigerians get uninterrupted power supply and that is exactly what the road map for the power sector addresses.”