FG spent N360b to settle PHCN workers, says BPE boss

Chigbo-Anichebe-360x225The Federal Government, on Tuesday, said it had spent over N360 billion for payment of severance benefits to workers of the defunct Power Holding company of Nigeria (PHCN).

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Director-General, Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), Benjamin Dikki said the payment was in accordance with the agreement to settle the severance benefits to the affected workers.

Dikki said that at the beginning of the privatisation process, the budgeted cost for the settlement of labour liabilities in the sector was put at N401 billion.

Giving a breakdown, Dikki said: “The BPE contributes N315.6 billion from the sale of PHCN asset, while the federal government provides N45 billion to  bring the amount  so far remitted to more than  N360 billion.

“It would be recalled that the Federal government had demonstrated great commitment in resolving labour issues in the power sector reform and privatisation.

“From the beginning, it had committed the entire proceeds realised from the sales of the power assets to the payment of the worker’s terminal benefits.

“The N360 billion so far spent was forwarded to the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to settle 51,247 PHCN Staff, both active and retired,’’ he said.

Dikki also said that of the 51,247 workers, 47,913 were active staff, and 3,334 were retired staff of the company.

The Director-General said 2,158 staff, comprising casual workers and those nor properly documented, were yet to be settled.

“The reason is that some were not initially captured when we were taking into account all the workers, while at the same time, some deliberately refused to fill the forms provided.

“So, those remaining have issues. We don’t have sufficient records on them, so, we cannot prove if they are bonafide staff or not.

“So, until we conclude verifying their authenticity, we cannot just hand out funds to anyone,’’ he said.

The Director-General urged the affected staff to exercise patience as the bureau was working to rectify the issues as soon as possible.

Dikki was apparently responding to a statement by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), which on Sunday accused the Federal Government of failing to meet agreements entered into prior to the sale and formal hand over of the 14 privatised power assets to new investors across the country in October.

Part of the agreement was the payment of severance packages and pension to the over 45,000 workers, which the workers accused government of reneging on.

The union also accused the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) of insincerity in handling the privatisation of the power sector assets, lamenting that “funds meant for the payment of staff entitlement in excess of over N100 billion have developed wings overnight, as the BPE, the Ministry of Power, and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation are unable to explain the where about of the money”

The statement gave the Federal Government a 14-day ultimatum to pay the over 10,000 workers of the now unbundled Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) their severance entitlement, or face total shut down of the sector.

The union also regretted that despite assurance by government, over 25,000 workers have not received their pension, just as another 5,000 workers that retired statutorily have not been paid their gratuity.

NUEE also accused government of insincerity in the agreement reached with labour to settle all issues before handling the defunct PHCN to new investors.

Having been beaten once, the union warned that there will be no going back on their resolve to shutdown the power plants nationwide, if the pension deductions of the over 48,000 workers made from July 2012 to date, which is yet to be effected taken care of.

 

[Daily Independent]

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