The crisis between the Ministry of Power and the disengaged members of staff of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria deteriorated on Monday with the Federal Government accusing the electricity workers’ union of behaving like outlaws.
Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, made the observation while speaking with State House correspondents after making a presentation on budget performance by his ministry to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Nnaji, who observed that there were unions in other sectors, regretted that union members would not behave the way the electricity workers were doing.
“Unions don’t act this way. There are unions in other sectors. PHCN unions are constituting themselves as outlaw,” he said.
Nnaji said, “The workers are not getting it. It is unfortunate that they are not getting the proper information. But I can promise you that this week, we are going to release a lot of information pertaining to the main issue which the union was quarrelling with government about.
“That has to do with how much they are going to take. They say it is N85,000. I cannot understand how they could say that. Many of the people who are junior officers, some of them with WEAC qualifications, are going to go home with N8m. We just do not want to publish the table.
“Somebody who is in the position of an assistant general manager, could go home with N28m. What we are saying is that there is a range. The highest officer could go home with N38m. So anybody who is telling you N85, 000 has a different mission.”
Nnaji said the Federal Government and the union only differ on the issue that the union wanted to be paid 25 per cent of the benefit at point of severance.
He explained it was an old policy before the 2004 Pension reform Act.
Nnaji added that his ministry had set up a panel to investigate deduction of 25 per cent for pension of workers without remittance.
On the 2012 budget, the minister said while the Executive proposed N75.4bn for his ministry, the National Assembly increased the figure to N78bn because of constituency projects.
Reacting, the Zonal Organising Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees in charge of Abuja, Nasarawa, Niger and Kogi, Mr. Temple Iworima, said the minister got it wrong when he described the protesting PHCN workers as outlaws.
He stated that if any party had behaved like an outlaw in the industrial dispute between the PHCN workers and the Federal Government, it was the minister.
He recalled an instance where the minister allegedly invited the then dreaded Bakassi boys to attack workers of the PHCN for preventing him to take a World Bank team to inspect PHC facilities in place of power stations which he got loans to build.