A panel set up to investigate the electricity workers’ pension contributions in the power sector has submitted its report to the minister of state for power.
Submitting the report on Monday in Abuja, the Chairman of the investigative panel and a former Auditor-General of the Federation, Joseph Ajiboye said that Power Holding Company of Nigeria’s (PHCN) workers’ pensions was never a contributory scheme and was never funded by a budgetary allocation but rather through an internal arrangement in the company.
“The problem with the PHCN was that they didn’t have sufficient fund to be able to meet the requirements of that closed system, that is the major problem,” he said.
Another major finding of the report according to Mr Ajiboye, was the existence of a mini—estate constructed to service the electricity workers’ retirement fund which was sold off without remissions to the fund, thereby starving the fund and making it impossible to pay off retired workers.
The eight-man-panel also reported that over two million pounds (approximately N500 million) which ought to have gone to the retirement fund is presently stuck in a London account and that if recovered could help solve the ongoing impasse between the electricity workers and the federal government.
The former Auditor-General said he believes that “government in its wisdom will find a solution to this problem.”
The investigative panel’s report has long been awaited. The panel was given 30 working days to probe the PHCN pension scheme especially the details of the N300 billion allegedly accumulated in the NEPA retirement fund which the former minister of power, Barth Nnaji had insisted was only N3 billion.
The Minister of State for Power, Nuhu Wya, while receiving the report from the panel said “We hope this report will aid us to find a solution the lingering labour issue. And you know the only labour issue that is outstanding now is that of pension.”
The PHCN staff are demanding a 25 percent benefit on their pensions different from the 15 percent severance package offered by the federal government on grounds that this was a set standard for pensions and gratuity payoff peculiar to the PHCN pensions scheme under the retirement fund.
The Chairman of the editorial board of the Nation newspapers, Sam Omatseye Thursday said with the ‘sack’ of the former Minister of Power, Barth Nnaji it is difficult to be a good man in Nigeria.
Mr Omatseye, who was speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, said President Goodluck Jonathan as well as the Security agencies that cleared Mr Nnaji before his appointment as a minister already knew that he (Nnaji) owns a company that is interested in the power sector.
Islamic wealth manager Lotus Capital and Nigeria’s bourse (NSE) on Monday launched a debut index of Nigerian Stock Exchange-listed companies that comply with centuries-old Islamic investment principles.
The NSE Lotus Islamic index, which covers 15 equities with combined market capitalisation of around 2.87 billion naira ($18 mln), excludes banks, companies with high levels of debt or leverage and other stocks that conflict with Islamic principles.
The stock exchange said the new index is designed to attract Sharia/ethical investors to Nigeria’s fledgling stock market, particularly those from the Middle East.
The new index is weighted towards fast moving consumer good, cement, oil marketing and manufacturing sectors and includes heavyweight Dangote Cement.
No sector will be allowed to account for more than 40 percent of the index, Lotus said, noting that the index will be reviewed every six months.
The current impasse over the takeover of management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, by the Canadian firm, Manitoba Hydro International, has brought into sharper focus the challenge of implementing power reform that would ensure provision of adequate and stable electricity for millions of Nigerian businesses and homes.
Electricity workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) have vowed to resist the takeover of power installations by private management interests, and last week took to the streets yet again in protest against the management contract of the TCN.
In a move that speaks to their determination to resist change in the country’s despondent power sector, the unionists had set up blockades, resisting an alleged scheduled inspection visit of the Minister of Power, Barth Nnaji and officials of Manitoba Hydro International to the corporate headquarters of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) which houses TCN in Abuja.
NUEE had alleged that the July 31, 2012 scheduled takeover of TCN management by Manitoba as contained in the three years management contract between the firm and Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) runs contrary to agreements as reached in their series of dialogue with government as overseen by the Hassan Sunmonu-led negotiation panel.
The governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola on Tuesday called on the Federal Government to refund the N16 billion deducted from its allocation from the Federation Account over its investment in power.
Claiming the nation’s economic capital has been unjustly treated in the on-going privatization exercise, especially, when it comes to privatization of assets. The governor asserted that if the nation must make a success of the privatization exercise in the Power Sector, it must start from Lagos
Mr Fashola made the lamentation about the alleged plight of the state while playing host to the members of the Senate Committee on Privatization which paid him a courtesy visit.
Explaining the genesis of the N16 billion illegal deductions, the governor explained that the state government invested in power plant, yet the power was not dedicated to Lagos, “but they (FG) have deducted about N16billion of our money in spite of court orders.” “Now, we get punished for taking the initiative” he added.
“There is a standing liability to us by the PHCN, the illegal deductions of N16 billion for power that we did not get, for the power that other states used. Now, those are issues of social and economic injustice that must be resolved before we can even have a successful privatization exercise. We are in court and there is arbitration”, the Governor said adding that he has written to the National Assembly to say that those are “red flakes to the successful completion of the exercise.
The governor however warned that as much as the state government supports the privatization exercise, if the money was not refunded, it would constitute clogs to the successful execution of the exercise.
Noting that the debt would be part of the due diligence obstacles for any concessionaire to cross, Governor Fashola warned, “If our money is not paid, clearly there will be issues of financial caution, I can tell you that”, calling on the Committee to persuade the National Assembly to make appropriation to refund the N16 billion to Lagos State.
“”It is no longer a question of who is right and who is wrong. The impact of Power to the National Economy is more than N16 billion”, the Governor said, adding, “Now, if the PHCN workers that went on strike at the onset of Power Reforms were paid, why should we not be paid because we did not go on demonstration; we are being civil”.
Governor Fashola insisted that for the privatization of the Power Sector to be successful, “We must put our best foot forward in Lagos because the Power demand is here, the Power assets is here”, warning that if the Federal Government should put on the attitude of “we can do it without them”, there would be problems ahead.
“Most of the distribution assets are here, we have invested in transformers, feeder pillars, poles, cabling and others. Those are the distribution assets any concessionaire is going to use. We have a transformer manufacturing company in Lagos where we are producing transformers and distributing to communities”, the Governor said pointing out that so far the electricity regulatory company has come to inspect the assets.
Noting that there is a provision in the Constitution that allows states to distribute power in areas not covered by the National Grid, Governor Fashola said such areas were not defined and called on the Committee to take up the task to legislate on such issues so that concessionaires and private investors would know which areas to invest in distribution.
The Governor also called on the Committee to assist to create “Greenfield Power Distribution Companies” saying they would act as backups for the 11 distribution companies carved out of the PHCN.
“It is not enough to say that the 11 distribution companies carved out of the PHCN are the only ones because if you look at the NITEL story, it was the Greenfield telecommunications companies that ultimately baled us out of our problem. So we must have Greenfield distribution companies that carry no baggage.
“We have been given the short end of the stick consistently. Given our contribution to the national economy, there has been no reciprocity. Our assets and our lands have been servicing the nation; these lands were there before they were acquired by the Federal Government for government business and we are saying, if they are no longer serving government business we are supposed to take our land back”, the Governor said.
Describing it as social injustice, Governor Fashola said Lagos State has been “the orphan of the entire Federation”, adding that the Federal Government took the State’s assets and gave nothing in return in spite of the fact that the State contributes the highest quota to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
Earlier, in his opening remarks, Chairman of the Committee said the Committee was in Lagos to inspect the Egbin Thermal Station in Ikeja and the Eko Business District as part of its oversight functions on the processes for the Privatization of the Power Sector.
According to Senator Obadara, the Committee paid a courtesy call Mr. Fashola with a view to interface with the State Government on areas of mutual interest in the drive towards improvement in the Energy Sector and to appreciate efforts made by the state government in the Independent Power Project scheme.
The Federal Government says that the ongoing reform of the power sector is setting up structures that will bring about a sustained increase in the power going to the National grid.
The Minister for Power Professor Barth Nnaji said this while inspecting Ihovbor Power Plant, one of the National Integrated Power Projects sited in Benin City.
The Minister told journalist that the current decline in power supply across the Nation is as a result of the shortage of water supply to the hydro power plants owing to the drought in the Northern part of the continent.
He also conceded that most power plants are facing shortage of gas and the recent declaration of emergency in the gas sector by the Ministry of Petroleum is geared towards addressing the challenge.
He however said competent workers need not fear the ongoing privatisation of the power sector as the exercise will create more opportunities that will require the expertise they possess in their field.
Work commenced on the power plant in 2005 as part of measures improve Nigeria’s power supply.
Though the work at the main power plant is 99% complete the delay arises from the contractor handling the switch yard who is currently facing problems of compensation over a community shrine that is on the right of way of the cable line.
The Minister in a telephone interview got the contractor to commit that by the first week of June their own end of the contract will be ready. However in the meantime a 500Kva Generator will be provided to ensure the smooth running of work on the plant.
The completion of similar power plants in Omotosho and other parts of the country raised the issue of gas supply to these power plants, this the Minister said is currently being addressed.
With the removal of fuel subsidy and the protest that trailed the increase in fuel price still fresh in the minds of Nigerians reporters were eager to verify a rumored increase in electricity tariff across the Nation.
The Minister who also addressed the concerns of the labour unions on the privatisation ofr the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) said arrangements have been made to ensure that no worker is left without employment at the end of the privatisation exercise.
The Ihovbor Power Plant is expected to inject 450 Mega Watts of electricity into the National grid when completed probably sometime this year.
The privatization of the Power Holdings Company of Nigeria (PHCN) has been generating different reactions since it was first announced.
Government also made a promise to revamp the sector and re-align it with electric power sector reform act of 2005.
Question Time focused on the power sector this week to know how it is faring plus the going-ons in the PHCN as Professor Barth Nnaji; the Minister Power and the current Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Power was brought on to address several issues of the sector.
Joe Ajaero the General Secretary National Union of Electricity Employees was unequivocal today during our breakfast show ‘Sunrise Daily’ that the union will continue to oppose the privatisation of the power sector so the power sector will not end up like other sectors that has been privatised.