Following threats by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to embark on a nation-wide strike within seven days should government fail, to begin payment of PHCN workers severance benefits in line with the 25 per cent contribution to their pension scheme, (Superannuation Fund), as well as withdraw soldiers from PHCN Headquarters, Abuja, the Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, has asked the Congress to help find the PHCN pension money.
The minister has asked the NLC to help government trace the whereabouts of PHCN workers' contributions which it has asked government to pay within seven days.
According to Nnaji, in a statement yesterday by his SA (Media), Ogbuagu Anikwe, government was ready to promptly pay the 25 per cent contributions to the workers "as soon as all parties are able to establish the whereabouts of the funds so far contributed by workers of the PHCN."
The minister declared that in the absence of funds to implement the Superannuation Scheme, and rather than go home with nothing, the 50,000 workers of PHCN should revert to the Pension Reform Act (PRA) and be paid from there in line with the PRA, 2004.
He said N80 billion has been made available by government for the purpose of paying PHCN workers "whose unions and management irresponsibly toyed with their pensions and gratuities under their ill-fated Superannuation Scheme."
He said the Superannuation Scheme has been managed by the PHCN management and the leadership of the three Unions in the sector who are the trustees and they have hitherto supervised the deductions and managed their disbursements.
"At the various labour negotiation meetings, government had requested the unions and management of PHCN to indicate where the funds are kept so that they could be used for the purpose of paying severance benefits. Government has equally asked any PHCN worker whose salary has reflected this 25 per cent contribution to show up with pay-slips showing the deduction, to date, no one has stepped forward with this evidence," he said.
Meanwhile, the workers have threatened to shut down the Kainji, Shiroro and Jebba Hydro Electric dams in Niger State if the issues are not resolved.
Addressing journalists during a protest at Shiroro Dam yesterday, the chapter Chairman of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Mohammed Nagya and Chairman of Senior Staff Association, Haruna Bankwhal, said while they were not against privatisation, all they ask is for government to pay their severance in line with the 25 per cent they contributed to the Superannuation Fund.
They informed that 80 per cent of the workers at the power stations have already down tools, leaving only 20 per cent manning the trubines could be withdrawn any moment.
In a related development, PHCN workers in Kano yesterday commenced an indefinite strike to protest the 7.5 per cent deduction from their salaries as pension contribution and called for the payment of their full entitlements.