Nigeria: Ex-PHCN Workers Entitled to 4 Percent of Privatised Electricity Firms, Says BPE

Former workers of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) are to be allotted four per cent of the federal government equity holding in the successor power companies, the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) disclosed on Monday.

The privatisation agency made this known in a statement in Abuja to announce the payment of about N409.92 billion as severance and death benefits to the affected ex-workers.

The BPE spokesperson, Amina Tukur, who gave the confirmation of the payment in a statement, said the allotment of the shares to the defunct PHCN ex-workers was in accordance with the privatisation policy of the federal government.

The privatisation policy directs the bureau to allow 10 per cent of the outstanding shares of the company or enterprises slated for privatisation to staff of the defunct company.

Consequently, Mrs Tukur said the former workers of the defunct utility company were entitled to be allotted 10 per cent of the balance of 40 per cent (4 per cent) of the successor companies reserved for them by the BPE after the privatization exercise.

The BPE said the 10 per cent shares due to workers of the Power Companies would be allotted to them after the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the regulatory authority in the Nigerian power industry, has completed the valuation of the investments in the states by the distribution companies.

The valuation, the BPE said, would form the basis on which the shares would be allotted to each state government.

Payment of severance, death benefits

Details of the payments to the ex-workers showed that so far about N409.92 billion was spent on the payment of severance and death benefits.

Mrs Tukur explained that the payment to the affected ex-workers came in two streams categorized into Severance payments and PHCN retirees/death benefits which the defunct power holding company could not pay before it handed over to the successor companies.

Out of the total 47,913 claims submitted to the BPE by PHCN, Mrs Tukur said about 47,275, representing 99 per cent, have been fully paid.

She said the claims were forwarded to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) for payment in 36 separate batches.

Further details of the payment showed that out of 638 outstanding active staff, there were 167 duplicated and blank spaces on the list, while 414 people never turned up for verification and 25 have already been audited and awaiting cash-backing.

Also, nine others with initial documentation problems would soon be audited, while 23 claims have documentation problems.

The BPE noted that in the course of the verification, 81 cases found to involve short-payment have since been corrected and cash-backed, with 180 cases recently treated and recomputed for short-payment are awaiting cash-backing.

Further details by the BPE showed that about 4,438 PHCN retirees have been submitted to BPE in eight batches, out of which about 3,131, representing, 71 per cent of the beneficiaries have been fully paid their entitlements to date, leaving about 1,307 yet to be paid.

The BPE attributed the delay in the payment of 15 of the affected former workers to errors in serial numbering, with 66 possible duplications in submissions, out of which 14 have recently been audited.

In addition, about 196 have been cleared and awaiting cash-backing, 392 cleared and sent to the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) for pension related benefits, and 694 to the Presidential Initiative for Continuous Auditing (PICA) for Gratuities and Deceased Benefits.

On the two per cent Union deductions, the Bureau said a total of N7.49 billion has already been paid to the defunct PHCN Unions account from batches 1-36, while the Bureau has already written to the Office Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) to credit the Unions' Account for the remaining deductions.

Non-computation of other entitlements

On the non-computation of 16 months' entitlements of staff of the defunct PHCN, the Bureau said during one of the engagements with the unions on January 13, 2014 at the Federal Ministry of Power, it was agreed that "7.5 percent employer pension contribution of July, 2012 to October 31, 2013 will be paid by the Federal Government (Market Operator)."

Mrs Tukur said although the decision was communicated to the Market Operator, the Unions suggested that BPE should escalate the matter to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who is the Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), for consideration and resolution.

The BPE said papers to the NCP on the matter are being completed.

On the post retirement training of the former PHCN staff, BPE said there was a decision to conduct a post-retirement training for them, but that the lack of cohesion among the agencies responsible for organizing the training has stifled the exercise of funding.

BPE said some of the ex-workers and pensioners were having difficulties to access their entitlements since 2013 when their payments were cash-backed due to invalid account details as a result of non- provision of the Nigeria Uniform Bank Account Number (NUBAN) account numbers; wrong account names/numbers and wrong Bank names.

For the pensioners/NOKs, the problem involved invalid retirement savings account (RSA) details such as wrong RSA Account names, wrong RSA personal identification numbers (PINs), wrong account RSA, and multiple RSA accounts.

Other problems include failed payments attempted once by officials of the various paying banks; and bank Account Detail Dormancy.

The Bureau assured that it was working with the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) to resolve the problems.

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