The Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) has told the National Industrial Court, Ibadan that it was not responsible for the payment of the entitlements of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) workers.
Reports say that no fewer than 384 casual workers of PHCN had sued the BPE and the defunct PHCN over the non-payment of their severance entitlements.
The counsel to BPE, Mr Ogala Osoka, told the court that his client was not responsible for such payment, insisting rather that it was the responsibility of the Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO).
He further said that the Ministry of Labour, in conjunction with the Ministry of Power, recently conducted a verification exercise for the casual workers, adding that more than 112 of them were paid by NELMCO.
“BPE is not responsible for the payment of severance packages, gratuities, pension and other entitlement or benefits of the claimants,” Osoka said.
But in his response, Mr Ahmed Tarfa, the counsel to the workers, argued that BPE must acquire the liabilities of PHCN since it was responsible for the privitisation of the defunct electricity company.
Tarfa said that he had a letter emanating from the BPE where the bureau had claimed responsibility for the payment of the allowances and other benefits of the workers.
He said that NELCOM could only deal with casual PHCN workers who must have passed through BPE and have had their names forwarded to NELMCO for payment.
“It is their (BPE) responsibility to discharge that action and then NELMCO would be bound to carry out its function.
“It was BPE which sent the files of other PHCN workers who were paid to NELMCO and we are saying, pass these people’s files too,” Tarfa said.
Justice Firstina Kola-Olalere, however, adjourned the case to June 2 for continuation of hearing.
The workers’ counsel had told the court that his clients were employed by PHCN as contract and casual staff prior to its privatisation.
He said that they had complied with the BPE’s directives to regularise and redesignate them from casual or contract status to permanent staff status from December 31, 2009.