Two years after the handover of the 18 successor companies of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to new core investors under the privatisation exercise, over 5, 000 disengaged workers of the defunct power firm are yet to be paid their gratuity, severance and other entitlements, the General Secretary, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) Comrade Joe Ajaero, has said.
Comrade Ajaero, who is also Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) factional leader, accused government of reneging on its promise to pay the gratuity and pension arrears of PHCN workers two years after privatisation. “As we speak, government has not fulfilled its obligation to pay the gratuity and pension of PHCN workers because each of the about 50, 000 staff of PHCN has one case or the other,” he said.
The labour leader said, for instance, apart from the fact that over 1, 000 death benefits are yet to be paid to the next-of-kin of workers who died in active service, many former PHCN workers are yet to be paid their leave bonuses by government. Others are also yet to get their housing rent, which, before privatisation was usually paid once a year.
“We pay bulk housing once in a year. So, if your monthly housing is N10, 000 nobody will pay you the N10, 000 at the end of the month; they will pay you N120, 000 either at the beginning or at the end of the year depending on the category you fall to enable people pay house rent in bulk. So, many people fall under this category and they have not paid them,” Comrade Ajaero stated.
He also accused the new core investors, the electricity distribution and generating companies (DisCos and GenCos) of short changing the Federal Government through under-declaration of profits and arbitrary tariff increase.
“They investors are saying they are not making profits and they keep on increasing tariff so that they will equally not allow government to get its own 40 per cent. The 10 per cent meant for the workers, which is contained in the Privatisation Act, that the workers or employees will get equity share of 10 per cent has not been forthcoming two years after yet you are liquidating,” he said.
Comrade Ajaero said aside the fact that the new investors asked for tariff increase a month or two before privatisation so that they will make profits and government conceded that to them, government has also even been subsidising their operation.
“Those people are not telling you the truth if they say they are not making profits. If they say they are not making profits it is to make sure they under-declare what they have. Tell them I said they are making maxi1mum profit and I stand to be corrected, but they are under-declaring it. The reason is to make sure they don’t pay the real tax,” he alleged.
He expressed regrets that government’s failure to meet its obligation with regard to the payment of workers’ entitlements despite signing agreement with the union around June 2012. According to him, peoples’ entitlements were calculated up to that month.