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Workers shut down PHCN Enugu zonal office

By The Rainbow
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THE headquarters of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company of Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, Enugu Zonal was shut down by aggrieved workers on Wednesday.

They were protesting nonpayment of staff claims and other entitlements.

According to reports  from  other South East States of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi and Imo States( which are under the Enugu Distribution Zone), all the business units and customer service centres were also shut down throughout WEdnesday.

Sources said the officials of Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) in the zone, ordered the locking out of workers following the alleged refusal of the Chief Executive Officer, PHCN Enugu zone, Engr. Suleiman Yahaya to response to their letter requesting him to settle the outstanding entitlements before the new owners of the company take charge.

Several customers who tried to recharge their pre-paid meters were unable to do so as they met the gates under lock and key in the early hours of yesterday, while some armed military men and private security guards were seen patrolling the premises apparently to forestall breakdown of law and order.

Both senior and junior workers of the company were nowhere to be found as they complied fully with the union's directive to stay away from their offices until their demands were met.

Senior Assistant General Secretary, NUEE, Comrade Cyprian Ndubuisi Akor told Vanguard on phone that the PHCN workers in Enugu zone decided to down their tools and lock up the headquarters and other offices within the zone in protest against the poor attitude of the CEO to the plights of the staff.

He said that even when the workers had been notified that they would be laid off very soon to enable the new investors take charge, their entitlements had not been paid while other debts owed workers in form of genuine claims, had been ignored by the management staff, who he alleged were busy taking care of their own interests ahead of the workers' disengagement.

Said Akor: 'As you know, PHCN said it is privatizing and preferred bidders have paid some money and are ready to take over the management. The government said all the entitlements of the workers would be paid before handing over the company to the new owners but I can tell you that up till now we have not seen anything.

'In Enugu zone in particular, the management owes workers a lot of claims and we want them to settle the outstanding debts before the new owners come in.  We wrote the CEO, Engr. Yahaya and gave him 14 days ultimatum to meet our demands but he declined.  Thereafter we extended the ultimatum by another 21 days, yet he did not respond to our letters.

'Based on this shabby treatment, the union decided to lock up the headquarters in protest from today and we shall stay away until the matter is resolved.  Instead of responding to our demands, the CEO and some of his management staff are busy buying brand new cars which they will cart away upon their disengagement.

'The CEO recently bought a brand new Sports Utility Vehicle, SUV, worth N25 million and Toyota Camry car worth about N10 million this July, which he plans to take away after his disengagement but he has refused to settle outstanding claims of junior workers, which is very unfortunate.'

Besides, Comrade Akor said that there were some unresolved issues about some staff in Ogidi Business Unit who were laid off unjustly even after their senior colleagues who were also indicted for the same offence, had been reinstated.

'The management had terminated the appointments of four junior staff in Ogidi Business Unit for an offence they allegedly committed with other senior staff.  The senior staff had since been pardoned and reinstated while the junior ones were left to perish. An Ad-hoc committee was set up to look into their case and recommended that they should be recalled but the CEO and his management team had remained adamant.  We are not happy about this,' Akor said.

He, however, vowed that unless their demands were met, the headquarters would remain locked as the aggrieved workers were no longer ready to continue working and grumbling over the gross neglect of their plights

When contacted over the development, yesterday, Assistant General Manager Public Affairs in the zone, Mr. Eseme Udoh described the action of the union as unfortunate, stressing that the management had for long maintained a robust relationship with the union and was opened to dialogue whenever the need arose.

He, however, said that all the workers' grievances would be resolved amicably just as he apologized to customers who were affected by the lock up to bear with the company, assuring that the offices would be reopened soon to enable them have access to various services in the zonal headquarters.