Following agitations by workers in the power sector over the takeover of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, a high powered delegation of the Federal Government met with the Management of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, to foster a peaceful transfer of operatorship.
The Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, accompanied by the Minister of Labour met the workers at the Corporate Headquarters of the PHCN in Abuja, where they held a two-hour crucial meeting with workers and the management of PHCN successor companies, in order to brief them about the final phase of the power sector reform exercise.
With the Minister were also the Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Nwogu, the Ministry's Permanent Secretary, Dr. (Mrs) Dere Awosika, and members of the Government-Labour Negotiating panel as well as other directors of the Ministry of Power.
Nnaji stated that he came to have a face-to-face interaction with the workers and to answer questions that may be agitating their minds over the ongoing privatization exercise.
"It is important for you to see me, ask me questions and get straight answers, rather than depending on third-party information that are often doctored by people with ulterior motives," he said.
He informed the workers that the reform of the power sector has entered a final stage and that government is ready to do what is necessary to see it to conclusion, including taking care of workers' welfare.
A statement by the office of the Minister of Power indicated that as early as 8.00 a.m., the Conference Hall of the PHCN was filled to capacity by staff and management of the company but that midway into the session, a supposed Labour officer came to ring a bell and to announce that Mr. Joe Ajaero, the Secretary of NUEE, "has directed all workers in the hall to leave with immediate effect."
Many of the workers immediately complied. This, however, did not deter the team which went on to deliver the message to the management and a few workers who were left behind.
Nnaji was said to have reaffirmed that no PHCN worker would be sacked as a result of privatization. "The plan is to pay severance benefits to workers; the funds for this is ready and will be disbursed at the appropriate time," he said.
The government position was reaffirmed by the Permanent Secretary, Awosika, who said that she was appalled by the fact that workers of PHCN are being deliberately misinformed about the reform exercise and how it affects them.
She also confirmed that the severance package for workers has been set aside and shall be disbursed in accordance with the reform time-table and called on workers not to be misled by their leaders to think that government does not have the will to implement the reform.
No amount of chanting or blackmail will deter the government from going ahead with this reform, she said.
Labour Minister, Chief Wogu, said he accompanied the Minister because he is keenly interested in how the parties are comporting themselves as the reform enters the crucial stage.
It is important to reaffirm that the reform cannot be reversed, and that government will ensure that workers get their rights, he said.
The meeting was at the behest of the Government-Labour Negotiating Team which requested the Minister to directly address the workers and explain the government position. Following this, the management of the PHCN met with the workers at the Corporate Headquarters, and agreed to give the Ministers and the Negotiating Panel a hearing.