(From the Office of the Minister of Power, Abuja, Nigeria, 5 April 2012)
The Hon. Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, had before now publicly acknowledged the technical abilities of Engr. Uzoma Achinanya and Engr. Akinwumi Bada, the two officers that were asked to proceed on retirement. He would have wished that Joe Ajaero, the Secretary of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) allowed them to enjoy their peaceful retirement. This is because protesting on their behalf would only go to expose issues and circumstances that would have the effect of tinting their hitherto sterling technical contributions to the nation.

Unfortunately, it is a fact that, sometimes, technical ability does not translate to managerial ability. It is ironic to note that the rabble-rousing antics of Joe Ajaero and his cohorts in NUEE was one of the issues that worked against the person that Ajaero is today shedding crocodile tears over his retirement. Or is it possible that Ajaero and the NUEE leadership have forgotten how they ceaselessly dragged this officer to various fora, complaining that he was discriminating against the distribution companies by releasing salaries that failed to harmonise the unprecedented 50% salary increase that the Unions extracted from government as one of the conditions to allow privatisation to go on? The Union’s incessant complaints about discriminatory payment of the 50% salary increase ultimately led to the officer’s poor management rating. As for the other officer,Nigerians are witnesses to two successsive explosions which led to system collapse that plunged the nation into darkness in late March. The fact that the second explosion occured within a week of the first, at the same place and time and under the same circumstances, exposes a lack of attention to detail for which someone in charge ought to be called to account.

As for the ex-HR Director, members of the general public who have ever complained about PHCN staff abuses – including extortion, embezzlement and corruption – are in the best position to judge the fidelity of the culture of staff discipline that this officer superintended. What is disheartening is that it was also not beyond this officer to keep on the payroll for 18 months, someone who was supposed to have retired – while senior staff of PHCN lamented their stagnation at one grade level for years because of “no vacancy.”

We have no intention of engaging Joe Ajaero in a street fight which he clearly relishes. It is laughable that Ajaero would suggest that majority of the officers affected by government’s retirement have nothing to do with power generation, transmission and distribution. PHCN’s sole business is power generation, transmission and distribution; any staff working for the company is engaged in any of the three, either as a core or as a support staff. Only someone like Ajaero would display this sort of ignorance about an organisation whose members he serves! This is instructive, for it exposes why Ajaero has so far not allowed the Union members to see that the privatisation of the public power supply organisation is for the good of everyone – the 160million Nigerians and the 30,000+ workers of the PHCN. It also exposes why Ajaero is unable to see that privatisation is akin to baking a bigger cake that would help this nation overcome its development challenges and at the same time increase the earning power and welfare package of PHCN workers.

Joe Ajaero is misleading PHCN workers. He will not acknowledge that the Goodluck Administration has bent over backwards to ensure excellent welfare packages for PHCN staff. He claimed, for instance, that he (Ajaero) was instrumental to the payment of monetisation benefits to PHCN – which Prof. Nnaji requested for and got from government. The healthy Superannuation Fund for PHCN workers, administered by the unions and management, has suddenly been depleted, forcing government to activate the Pension Reform Act in the PHCN and equally source for funds to be able to continue to pay PHCN retirees. Ajaero will not disclose that it was the Goodluck Administration that approved monetisation benefits denied PHCN workers since the Obasanjo regime. He has not thanked the Government for agreeing to pay an unprecedented 50% salary increase for PHCN workers across the board, and for picking up the bill for the first three months. Ajaero ignores the fact that the Government had budgeted and continues to annually budget a jumbo package for retirements, pensions, benefits and severances that may result from the privatisation of the companies.

Government is doing all of this to ensure that no worker suffers a disadvantage arising from the privatisation of public power companies. Rather than acknowledge what government has done, Ajaero and his union cohorts have stood solidly against the privatisation of the power sector, thereby putting the interest of some 30,000+ Nigerians in the power sector against the economic interest of Nigeria, and against the comfort of 160 million citizens. As we all know, this attitude has, has among other tragedies, led to the direct closure of industries and the displacement of millions of Nigerians from work, just to satisfy the whims of 30,000+ workers who see the PHCN as their birthright – after begging government to employ them in the same organisation!

What is also tragic is that Ajero is misleading the staff at PHCN headquarters to sit tight (and therefore remain unproductive), rather than progress to the various successor companies to which they have been redeployed. Ajaero knows full well that any staff that is not found in a successor company before privatization process is concluded will not be considered by any of the investors; thus they will be left stranded with option to be retired at best….

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