On The Directive By PHCN Workers To Go On Strike
It has come to the knowledge of the Federal Government of Nigeria that the general secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Joe Ajaero, has vowed to order staff members of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) who belong to the trade union to stop work anytime from now without notice over the Federal Government's payment of monetised benefits to PHCN workers.
Mr. Ajaero alleges that over a half of the PHCN workforce was yet to be paid, hence the justification for the strike.
T his allegation is unfounded and preposterous.
Forty thousand three hundred and twenty six (40, 326) persons out of the less than 44,000 PHCN work force entitled to be paid have been paid fully, with the amount totalling forty six billion, one hundred and forty four million, seven hundred and forty six thousand, three hundred and thirty two (46, 144, 746, 332) Naira. All payments were made through the PHCN account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The media, civil society organisations and the public are encouraged to crosscheck these facts.
In other words, only five thousand five hundred and sixty seven (5,567) people have yet to receive their benefits amounting to ten billion, one hundred and fifty seven million, eight hundred and seventy three and fifty two (N10, 157,873,052) Naira.
These workers include those whose files could not be traced by any of the three international firms of KPMG, Atakoff and Akintola Williams & Delloitte which are auditing the PHCN workforce and the outstanding benefits; therefore, they could not be paid due to no fault of the Federal Government.
Still, the PTFP has asked the auditing firms to ensure that any worker who presents a genuine staff identity card and a staff number and has staff file is paid promptly.
The order by the NUEE Secretary General for the PHCN staff to embark on a strike is clearly in bad faith. It is unimaginable that any Nigerian citizen would attempt to plunge the whole nation into complete darkness and compromise national security in view of ongoing developments in the country.
T he PHCN staff members were not paid their entitlement for seven years. Still, they did not go on strike against any government since the introduction of monetised benefits in 2003.
No sooner did President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, assume office as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in May, 2010, than he made available a whopping N57 billion for the payment of the PHCN staff, and the payment has been going on diligently and swiftly. Apart from this, the FG, as demanded by the NUEE, has appropriated the sum of N130bn as a contingency for paying of the full benefits of all members of the NUEE whose services are severed in the event of privatisation.
The least the 140 million Nigerian people so badly served by the NIgerian electricity industry expect from 46,000 NUEE members whose welfare is fully respected by Government is good faith, and not a penchant for wildcat strikes at the behest of a very well-paid general secretary who is not even a worker in PHCN and who obviously cares nothing for the social and economic consequences of a strike by an industry essential to national security and the maintenance of our national life.
On August 25, 2010, a day to President Jonathan's unveiling of the Road Map for Power Sector Reform in Lagos, Joe Ajaero directed NUEE members to go on strike in order to sabotage the launch of the Road Map designed to solve, once and for all, the perennial electricity crisis which has paralysed social life and economic development. The industrial action threatened national security, adversely affected the economy and made life more difficult for the ordinary people of Nigeria .
The NUEE secretary must be reminded that his call for a strike is illegal. The law prohibits the PHCN staff from going on strike, and the Supreme Court in case no SC/62/2004, NUEE & Kiri-Kalio vs. BPE categorically stated that the implementation of the policy and settled law on reform and privatisation of the NIgerian electricity supply industry is not a matter on which members of any registered trade union in NIgeria, including the NUEE, can go on an industrial action .
Let there be no doubt about the Federal Government's commitment to elevating availability to clean, steady and universally accessible electricity for the citizenry to the level of a basic right. So also will this Administration ensure that the laws of the land, including this important decision of the Supreme Court, are fully upheld and enforced.
Mr. Joe Ajaero is advised to desist from elevating his purely selfish opposition to reform and progress on right-thinking staff of PHCN, who have never been permitted by him to exercise their democratic right to decide whether or not they wish to proceed on illegal strike actions . PHCN staff members are enjoined to respect the laws of the land and follow the path of reason and wisdom. Any person who wilfully goes against the laws of the country and the interests of our citizens will be made accordingly to feel the full weight of the law. Let it be made very clear to all that the days of indulging the NUEE and its general secretary, Joe Ajaero, are over.
It must also be understood by the NUEE and its law-abiding members that this Administration will resolutely follow its Road Map for Electricity Sector Reform and will do so in a manner that respects every labour-related agreement and protects the well-being of the staff of the companies to be privatised. However, this Administration will also not allow the Joe Ajaeros in and outside PHCN and the NUEE to use their false concern for workers welfare as a pretext for derailing a reform programme that benefits the entire Nation. Once again, the Presidential Task Force on Power wishes to assure all citizens of the Federal Government's resolve and unflinching determination that their paramount interest over that of the 46,000 members of the NUEE will continue to be upheld and that the Nigerian electricity sector will be totally overhauled for the common good.
Dr Abimbola Agboluaje is Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Power Communications Committee