Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Privatisation - FG Set Aside N170 Billion for PHCN Workers' Gratuities

The Federal Government has earmarked about N170 billion to pay workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) following recent agreement by both parties on the package for gratuities and pension.

Last Tuesday, labour unions and representatives of the federal government signed an agreement after a long drawn battle to settle the dispute on how to pay pension and gratuities to the PHCN workers since the company had been unbundled into 18 successor companies for sale in the ongoing power sector reforms.

Speaking yesterday at the 5th power summit organized by the Ministry of Power in Lagos, Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr Dere Awosika said the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) was already working to ascertain the exact total cost.

Dr Awosika said letters requesting the affected workers to forward the details of their Retirement Savings Account (RSA) would be issued by next week to facilitate the payment.

She said a training programme was about to be organized by the federal government for top officials of the successor companies on labour issues and modalities for winding up to the preferred bidders.

"The senior officials are going to be trained in order to equip them with the leadership and direction needed to relate with the labour in the sector. It will also equip them to be able to negotiate with the new owners on how to negotiate employment terms. We need to have a consensus on the winding-up date to the new owners (preferred bidders)," she added.

In her presentation, former Permanent Secretary in the ministry of labour and a member of the federal government negotiation team with the labour unions Dr Timi Agary said the agreement reached last week provided that 20 per cent of all accrued benefits are to be paid to the workers as gratuity while 25 per cent of all accrued benefits are to be paid as pension.

Dr Agary said government would soon approach the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) for a forbearance package to enable them pay pension for staff of the utility company, adding that the 2004 Pension Act provides that only workers who opened their RSA before 2007 are eligible for pensions with a clause that provides for a forbearance granted by the PENCOM.

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