I am pleading with the Accountant General of the Federation, Mallam Ahmed Idris to please as a matter of urgency release for payment the severance benefits of dully verified members of Staff of the forcefully disengaged, defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). I was made to understand that the schedule of payment to the affected workers termed ‘batch 14, 15 and 36’ have been with you for over six (6) months.
With due respect Mr. AG, it may interest you to note that these hapless, short changed Nigerians are not asking for a share of the national cake or privilege; but, their fundamental rights that have been denied since the last five years or so. The benefits not yet paid includes; unpaid severance entitlements and pension deductions of all PHCN Staff covering 16months period-July, 2012-October, 2013. Cases of staff who retired statutorily from service but yet to receive their respective gratuities preceding the privatization exercise. Others are cases of staff yet to receive the pension components of their exit entitlements, including death cases still awaiting payments to their next of kin. Another point of note is “refusal to conduct pre-retirement trainings for PHCN workers as agreed by the negotiated gentlemen agreement”.
Furthermore; the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), under Mr. Alex Okoh, has done his part by ensuring that these protracted issues are settled. It was revealed that since August 1, the BPE has sent three letters to the AG detailing individual benefits and total amount needed to pay up the entitlements of the affected workers and those that precede them. We were inundated with the fallacy that the delay was due to non-completion of the job by the ‘Technical Working Group’ (TWG) which was inaugurated in March, this year. The TWG has since concluded its assignment. Mr. AG, what is holding the payment? Mr. AG, it may interest you to further note that, five years after the ungodly exercise called privatization, many staff of the company have died without collecting a dime. Presently, most of them are terminally ill, while others have handed over the issue to God Almighty, by organizing a monthly joint prayer section (Muslims/Christians).
Mr. AG, you will agree with me that the present Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is a people oriented government, with listening ears. Most of these staff voted massively for Mr. President in 2015. Today, there are expected to repeat the feat in 2019. If I may ask: are you expecting them to go to 2019 polls with empty stomach? Or half dead? This issue has involved a lot of storytelling; right from BPE to National Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO), now, it is the turn of the AG to tell us the part of his own story!
Conclusively, I hope and pray that the needed steps will be taken by your exalted office to effect full payments of all outstanding benefits without delay. We are tired and fed up with this ‘mushroom boardroom bureaucracy’. This is the time for action period!
Lest I forget; I learnt the BPE has put up Afam Generation Company (GenCo), and Yola Electricity Distribution Company (DisCo), for auction, sorry for sale. Wonders, they say, shall never end! The same BPE which is unable to settle the severance package of the former members of Staff, after five years of privatization, is bent on creating another conundrum! It is time the government breaks its silence and look into the contraption, called privatization for sake of history and posterity.
U.S. Ladan (Snr.), Abuja