By: Valentine Adese, Alfred Saiki and Ifeanyi Okonkwo
With strong indications that the search light of the Federal Government of Nigeria would soon be directed to the power sector of the country with the return of President Muhammadu Buhari from china with the aim of addressing the lingering problems inherited by the All Progressive Congress (APC) administration at the center, fear has began to grip owners and gainers in the Privatization exercise executed by the immediate past Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration in the country.
There are strong indications also, that those who now front themselves as owners of the Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOS) may not actually be the owners, as findings are already indicating that the payments for these companies may have been directly paid for from the country’s foreign reserve.
To further capsize the privatization processes, sources close to the Presidency, have indicated that President Buhari has gotten first hand information, that the processes of the privatization was poorly done.
First, REALITY gathered that most of the Companies that acquired the assets and liabilities of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) are yet to pay Exit Allowances to most of the workers disengaged from NEPA or PHCN. More so, the workers are yet to be paid their Equity, amounting to about 10% of the total sales to staff at privatization.
Although some of the over 50 thousand staff of the then NEPA or PHCN have been paid their Severance and Gratuity Allowances and Benefits respectively, others are yet to be paid. More so, most of the sacked workers have not been paid their housing allowance to date.
Sadly also, the staff salaries in arrears, from June 2012 to November, 2013 (16 months) when the privatization lasted, are yet to be paid.
You would recall that, it was reported that the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), disappeared immediately the administration of President Buhari assumed office last year.
From findings, it was estimated that each staff of the now privatized NEPA or PHCN, was to get about N13million Naira each irrespective of cadre. But, REALITY findings reveals that some hardly got two hundred and fifty thousand Naira (N250,000.00).
As at the time of writing this report, for the third time in 2016, the Jos Electricity Company (JED) has come under lock and key for many alleged wrong reasons, as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliate continue to protest against most of its policies.
First it was the issue of not paying the staff the company inherited from the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), then the second protest was the recent hike in tariff.
Today, the company has also come under lock and key as workers protest the absence of legal working conditions of service for the company workers.
According to the Labour Union officials comprising of NLC and National Union of Electricity Employees, the JED has forced its workers to sign themselves into slavery as they are made to sign a bond to receive whatever they company pays them.
Speaking to journalists outside the gate of JED, Comrade Musa Ayiga, the Vice President of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) North East Zone, said the Managing Director of JED had even boasted to them that not even the President of the country, Governor, Emir, can influence him to change his decision.
While on his part, the Assistant General Secretary of NUEE, Comrade Anthony Sule, “Since the appointment of the Managing Director of JED, he has never invited the Union to a round table discussion concerning the welfare of the workers”.
Comrade Musa Ayiga in part, said:
“This protest is all about Nigeria and Nigerians. We are fighting for the rights of Nigerians. The Union as you know is the voice for the voiceless.
“Looking at what is happening today, in the electricity industry of recent, there was a tariff hike. In a company where we are also working, we discover several salary disparities alongside those staff that were inherited by the company from former PHCN.
“From the structure, the salary of those inherited from PHCN, are different from the salaries of those recently employed by JED. We also have a mother company called, Aura Energy. Their staff also enjoys a different salary structure.
“The most painful thing is that, where you are working for long, somebody employed yesterday, is made to head a superior officer and also given a very huge salary package to enjoy.
“To us, slavery is back directly or indirectly. By this I mean you would discover that, people who are paid peanuts are the very people they use in doing the jobs. They report to the office by 8.00am and close sometimes by 6.00pm. They don’t even enjoy the luxury of weekends. Despite all this, what is their take home, N25, 000.00!
“The workers have different names and categories. Some are called, Internships, Peered, Casuals and so on! We even have some group of workers here called Peninsular. These are some of the things the Union is saying No to!
“As you can see, there is high level of victimization of workers here. They are afraid to join the protest and the struggle because; they have been warned that if they do, they would be sacked.
“As we are talking, so many former PHCN workers have been laid off for no justifiable reason(s). Yet we call ourselves Nigerians. You know that despite the so called privatization, government still has 40% control in the company. So as Nigerians, if the Federal Government still has this 40% shares, why sack fellow Nigerians without justification?”
On the part of Comrade Sule, he said:
“Every investor would want return on investment but, he must take into consideration certain stakeholders and put other variables in place to take a good decision.
“Since the appointment of the Managing Director of JED, he has never invited the Union to a round table discussion concerning the welfare of the workers.
“We have written several letters to him which he has deliberately ignored. Now, workers in the company are made to sign a Bond, that if they don’t collect the money they are been paid, they would be sacked.
“So, the entire workers in the company have signed their death warrant. Even if there is no supply of light in your environment, they are bound to collect money for the company with specified targets.
“Customers’ problems are not attended to as that is not their priority. How do you ask a worker to sign a bond of service when there is no light? There is actually no condition of service here, hence, the Union is protesting.”