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    Power Sector - Strike Looms Over Alleged Breach of Reform Act


    June 9, 2022 - Victor Ahiuma-Young

     

      Indications of growing restiveness in the Electricity industry have emerged over Federal Government and Power sector operators' alleged breach of Power Sector Reform Act, PSRA of 2005 which culminated in the privatisation of the assets of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN in 2014.

      Vanguard gathered that the bone of contention is the "Transfer Instrument" (Provisional Transfer of the Asset, Liabilities, Employees' rights and obligations of PHCN Plc to Electricity Management Services Plc), a fall out of consultations with relevant stakeholders before the privatisation of the assets of defunct PHCN.

      According to sources, the memo by the Head of Service, HoS, of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan, HCSF/SPSO/E&WP/649373 dated May 29, 2020 in a response to an earlier memo with reference FMP/2354/Vol.11/43 of April 16, 2020, from the Minister of State for Power, is the cause of the uneasiness in the sector.

      Already, the workers in the sector under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, have issued a 21-day ultimatum to HoS of the Federation, to withdraw the said memo on the status of severed defunct PHCN staff concerning their re-engagement in the public service after payment of severance package, saying the memo is inciting industrial unrest in the Power sector.

      NUEE recalled that in a letter to the HoS, dated March 14, 2022, it had earlier sought for the clarification of the memo because of several insinuations therein to no avail.

      According NUEE in the letter by its General Secretary, Joe Ajaero, "the disengagement of staff was done in consultation with relevant stakeholders, following due procedures, provisions of the extant rules and approval of relevant authorities. In line with the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005 and consultations with various stakeholders, a TRANSFER INSTRUMENT (Provisional Transfer of the Asset, Liabilities, Employees' rights and Obligations of PHCN Plc to Electricity Management Services Plc) was initiated.

      'This document clearly defines the status of employees among others, pre-and post-privatisation. Considering the peculiarity and sensitivity required to work in the highly technical environment such as the Power sector, and the prevention of the collapse of the sector that may have arisen as a result of mass disengagement of employees due to privatisation, an agreement was reached between the Federal Government and other stakeholders to the effect that there shall be transfer of employees from PHCN to the new companies while maintaining their positions and remuneration packages among others.

      "Note that the Assets, Liabilities, Employees etc, were transferred to the new owners and termed continuation of service as the years served in PHCN will sum up to the employees' records as it affects retirement etc. Furthermore, severance package paid to employees during privatisation is to account for the years of service in PHCN.

      "Again, Section 4, Rule 020402 of the Public Service Rules as stated in your Memo that "staff of the defunct PHCN who were duly retired from Federal Public Service in 2014, in line with government policy of re-organising the Power Sector, cannot be re-engaged into the same service on pensionable status, and may have been erroneously applied under the prevailing circumstances.

      "In line with the "Transfer Instrument," the mandatory Contributory Pension Scheme, CPS, continues in line with government's Pension Regulations and not a fresh Pension Scheme. That an employee is involved in the Contributory Pension Scheme while still in service does not make him a Pensioner already.

      "The appointment/recruitment of transferred PHCN staff on contract basis by the new companies and their sack without recourse to extant laws was a clear violation of the Transfer Instrument which the Union had protested.

      "Our prayer is that your office should graciously review your aforementioned memo which is generating crises vis-a-vis the "Transfer Instrument" and Agreement in respect of Labour Issues affecting staff of the PHCN duly endorsed by the Federal Government represented by the Secretary to Government of the Federation-SGF, Minister of Power, BPE and the Unions."

      21-day ultimatum

      Meanwhile, NUEE in the fresh letter to the HoS dated May 18, 2022, by its General Secretary, among others, said: "We are worried that over two months after the memo of March 14, 2022, was sent to your office requesting clarification on severed defunct PHCN staff with respect to re-engagement in the public service after payment of severance packages; no acknowledgement.

      "The agreement was reached between the Federal Government and other stakeholders to the effect that there shall be a transfer of employees from PHCN to new companies while maintaining their positions and remuneration packages among others.

      "It is instructive to state that the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, PTAD, is a scheme that caters for employees who retired normal/statutorily i.e. 60 years of age of 35 years of service pre-privatisation; but in the case of workers in the Power sector, the mandatory contributory pension scheme continues in line with government's Pension Regulations and not a fresh pension scheme.

      "Agreements signed pre-privatisation in respect of labour issues affecting staff of the PHCN were duly signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Minister of Power, BPE and the Unions issues of the Power sector pre or post-privatisation have not been with the office of the Head of Service which was not also part of the various agreements reached.

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