This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Nebo Investigates Delay in Payment of PHCN Workers

The Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, has ordered an immediate investigation into the reported delays in the processing and payment of disengagement entitlements owed to the last batch of workers of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

The alleged delays had been traced to some banks as disclosed in a statement from the Ministry of Power, which stated that Nebo was for instance informed of a payment instruction given to a particular commercial bank on December 10 and which was yet to carry out the transaction almost 13 days after.

The Ministry of Power stated in a statement yesterday in Abuja, that the minister had described the situation as "intolerable," adding that a situation where the process of paying monies already released by government was causing frustration among the workers was embarrassing to the federal government.

Nebo spoke during a meeting with the Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu, the new owners of the successor generation and distribution companies created from the unbundling of PHCN. He explained that the meeting was called to resolve issues of labour relations between the new owners and the workers and to prevent disharmony that could hinder the transition of the country's emerging electricity market.

Rather than discourage labour unionism; the minister also stressed the need for the new owners to have in place a proactive human resource department that would regularly engage the labour force on issues relating to their work conditions.

Wogu in his remarks, drew the attention of the new headship of the generation and distribution companies to the need to comply with the provisions of Nigeria's labour laws and International Labour Organisation (ILO) 1949 Convention, which collectively support harmonious existence and operation of workers' unions, especially for organisations with a staff strength of over 50. Wogu also explained that non-unionisation was an unfair labour practice, going by these instruments, while a well practised unionism had the advantage of promoting cordiality and stimulating productivity within the organisation.

The labour minister also advised the new company owners not to deviate from the agreement between government and the two recognised labour unions in the power sector on matters of their welfare.

The statement informed that while leaders of the electricity workers' unions who were invited to the meeting failed to turn up, representatives of the new company owners who spoke at the meeting however, said that they recognised the need for continuous engagement with the unions in dialogue, to ensure good working atmosphere.

The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP), Nigeria Employers' Consultative Association (NECA) and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.

The statement also indicated that the Commandant-General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Dr. Ade Abolurin, attended the meeting in a bid to strengthen collaborative efforts with the new owners of the privatised power assets against acts of vandalism and security of assets.

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