The Federal Government has approved payment of the sum of N384 billion as benefits accruing to the staff of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) as it moves to sanction any radio station whose presenters were accused of instigating people against polio immunization, which led to the recent killing of health workers.
Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Nworgu, made the disclosure at a media briefing on the outcome of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan at the State House, Abuja on Wednesday, February 20.
He explained that the approved sum is for the settlement of gratuities and entitlements of the over 54,000 displaced staff of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) consequent on the negotiations with the workers' union under the aegis of Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Company (SSAEAC) and National Union of Electricity (NUEE) over the on-going reforms in the power sector.
He elucidated that following the privatization of the assets of the company, government had agreed with organized labour to pay off the workers made up of about 50,000 regular and 4,000 unregularised staff such that whoever would be absorbed in the new company would sign on to new conditions of service.
Nworgu who was in the company of the Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo, Acting Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Benjanmi Ezra Dikki and the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said the payments would commence with immediate effect.
"I want to inform you that the agreed benefits accruing to the staff of PHCN in the last negotiation between government and the Labour Unions have been approved by President Goodluck Jonathan. Payment of the agreed sum will commence immediately and that will bring to an end the issue of non-payment of benefits," Nworgu said.
He enjoin labour unions in the power sector to work closely with the Ministry of Power in the payment of these benefits as agreed saying that the process will commence on Thursday, February 21 and assured that it will bring to an end the labour issue in that sector.
While noting that the payment which will be done within the best principle of transparency and accountability is only for PHCN staff, Nworgu stated that a biometric exercise was conducted by labour and government to determine the beneficiaries adding that the agreement clearly defines the number of people benefiting.
The Minister of Power, expressed appreciation to the PHCN staff for ensuring availability of power as he urged them not to relent in the efforts to complete the remaining reform processes.
"We are very grateful to the staff of PHCN for all that they have done to make sure that power is available all over the country. We do hope that they will continue to serve patriotically to ensure that no hitch is put in place in the realisation of the entire power sector roadmap," he said.
"We want to make sure that eventually Nigerians get uninterrupted power supply and that is exactly what the roadmap for the power sector would address," he added.
Speaking on the killing of health workers in Kano and Yobe states, the Minister of Health said he had already written to his counterpart in the Ministry of Information on the need for the regulatory body of broadcast media to sanction the stations found to be inciting people against the immunization exercise.