The much anticipated conclusion of the privatisation of the power sector is enveloped in uncertainty following conflicting signals emanating from key stakeholders on the scheduled handover of the successor companies of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria tomorrow (Friday).
While the Federal Government is insisting that there is no going back on the handover date, the PHCN workers are gearing up for a nationwide strike to prevent the handover, claiming that their terminal entitlements have not been fully paid.
The consortia that won the bids for the successor power firms, on the other hand, are anxiously waiting to receive the nod from the government to take over the firms so that they can begin the implementation of their turnaround plans.
To underline its seriousness about the November 1 handover of the firms to the new investors, the Federal Government has deployed ministers and key officials to the various locations of the successor companies to handle the transfer of ownership on its behalf.
It insisted that 40,093 out of the 47,913 identified workers of the PHCN had been fully paid their entitlements, which were put at N294.4bn, while N214.2bn was paid as severance package, with the workers’ pension gulping N80.2bn.
The National Union of Electricity Employees is, however, disputing the payment of the pension contributions, and has vowed to call the workers out on an indefinite strike.
The Federal Government, through the Bureau of Public Enterprises, on Wednesday released the schedule for the handover, with key government officials mandated to represent Vice-President Namadi Sambo, who is also the Chairman, National Council on Privatisation at the various locations.
According to a statement by the BPE, the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, will hand over the Abuja Distribution Company to KANN Utility Consortium in Abuja; the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, will hand over the Ibadan Distribution Company to Integrated Energy Distribution & Marketing Limited; while the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke, will give out the Enugu Distribution Company to Interstate Electrics Limited.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, will give out the Eko Distribution Company to West Power & Gas; the Minister of Transport, Idris Umar, is expected to hand over the Kainji Electricity Distribution Company to Mainstream Energy Solutions Limited; while the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, will handle the transfer of the Yola distribution Company to Integrated Energy Distribution and Marketing Limited.
Similarly, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Musa Sada, will oversee the handing over of the Kano Distribution Company to Sahelian Power SPV Limited; the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, will transfer the Jos Distribution Company to Aura Energy Limited; the Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu, will hand over the Ughelli Generation Company to Transcorp Ughelli Power Plc; while the Minister of State for Works, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda, will preside over the handing over of the Shiroro Generation Company to North-South Power Company.
The Director-General, BPE, Mr. Benjamin Dikki, is expected to hand over the Ikeja Distribution Company and Egbin Power Plant to NEDC/KEPCO Consortium; the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Dr. Godswill Igali, will handle the transfer of the Port Harcourt Distribution Company to 4Power Consortium; the Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Power, Mr. Beks Dagogo-Jack, will hand over the Benin Distribution Company to Vigeo Power Consortium; while the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, will preside over the transfer of the Geregu Generation Company to Amperion Power Distribution.
Dikki said, “This handover is a culmination of 14 years of painstaking effort by the National Council on Privatisation, Bureau of Public Enterprises and other key stakeholders to reform and liberalise Nigeria’s electricity industry, which began in 1999.”
Igali also said this while briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of a meeting between the stakeholders in the power privatisation process and Sambo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja that the government was sure of a successful handing over since it had made a significant progress in settling the disengaged workers.
Igali explained that while the severance packages went directly into the bank accounts of beneficiaries, the gratuity was paid to their pension fund custodians.
He added that the documents of additional 605 workers, who were validated on Tuesday, had been sent for payment.
The permanent secretary, however, said the government currently had issues with some workers, whose biometric data were corrupted.
He said those under this category, 1,478 workers from the Enugu Distribution Company and 929 others nationwide would be invited to Abuja for recapturing.
Igali said the government also had issues with another 1,000 workers who had been cleared but had cases of duplication of names and account numbers, while describing as bad cases those of 2,500 whom he said had no record that they were PHCN workers probably because they were casual workers.
However, the NUEE directed the workers to withdraw their services if the government eventually went ahead with the handover of the PHCN subsidiary companies to private investors on Friday.
The Secretary General, NUEE, Mr. Joe Ajaero, in a statement on Wednesday, said outstanding labour issues had yet to be resolved by the Federal Government; adding that the plan to hand over the power assets negated the agreement it reached with the union.
“By this statement, we urge all workers of PHCN to withdraw their services from any unit in the event of further provocation by armed military personnel desperate to take over PHCN installations. This is to avoid confrontations with the troops from November 1, 2013,” he said.
Ajaero noted that the gratuity payment was only 68 per cent completed, adding that no member of staff has had their pension contributions transferred into their Retirement Savings Accounts.
He said, “Those that retired from service since 2011 have not received their benefits totalling about N19bn. The differences of the shortfall of the terminal benefits from June 30, 2012 till date have not been considered for payment.
“The biometrically captured and considered casuals’ appointment has not been addressed. The question of 10 per cent equity shareholding (in the companies) by the workers as statutorily provided has not been given attention.
“While we appreciate and sympathise with the core investors, we ask for their understanding and that of the Nigerian public in our pursuit to ensure a seamless transition. We are resolute on receiving every kobo owed us as we are sure such liabilities will not be borne by the new investors unless there is a commitment to that effect from them.”
The President-General, Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, Mr. Bede Opara, stated that although all government agencies concerned in the process had made tremendous efforts at settling the workers, what was remaining was the payment of the employees’ pensions.
He stated that the workers would not have been interested in embarking on a strike, but maintained that the handover of the firms would not be fair if all issues were not amicably resolved.