by Adeniyi Abdul
Minister of Power Barth Nnaji yesterday responded to demands made by the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) and the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) regarding the payment of gratuities and pensions to staff of Power Holding Company (PHCN).
The president of the SSAEAC had accused the government of defaulting on payments into workers’ retirement savings accounts, saying “in paying our pensions, government posited that it will pay into RSA to be opened by all staff and it will be calculated in accordance with our superannuation up to June 2004, which takes into recognition 25 per cent of our salaries deducted for that purpose and from June 2004 (effective date of the Pension Reform Act) it will calculate only 15 per cent which the minimum per cent granted by the Pension Act”.
The labour leader also stated that the government had claimed to be making use of funds in the ongoing privatisation project, but insisted it was unreasonable. “It will be foolhardy for government to claim at this time that there is money to finance its privatisation programme by paying its labour liabilities. The same government that had enough money to mount media campaign and attack on the unions at the onset of its programme, is now claiming that it has no money to pay our benefits, thereby short-changing us.”
Professor Barth Nnaji has however responded to these accusations and demands, directing workers to demand their payment from their union leaders and not the Federal Government. He stated that N88 billion had not been paid into the pension account like some labour activists had claimed, and the amount available was actually N3 billion.
“With the impending privatisation of 17 PHCN successor companies, which necessitates mass retirements, there are practically no funds in the account to pay the severance package of the 50,000 PHCN employees,” Nnaji said. “Contrary to the propaganda by some labour activists to the effect that there was N88 billion in the pension account as of June 30, 2004, when the old scheme ceased to operate, what was available in the account administered by the union leaders and the PHCN management was a mere N3 billion.”
“It is, therefore, incumbent on PHCN employees, whether retired or serving, to find out from their union leaders, who are the signatories to the bank account, what happened to the difference of N85 billion, in the interests of transparency, probity and accountability.”