Govt ‘liquidates’ PHCN
THE wind of change blowing across the public sector has swept away the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). In its stead, 18 successor firms have emerged.
The Federal Government, which has stepped up the implementation of the Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act of 2005, says PHCN workers will be absorbed by the 18 firms, which were created by the law. The other personnel will be transferred to agencies under the Ministry of Power. Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, who confirmed the “liquidation” of PHCN, told reporters at the weekend in Abuja that PHCN corporate office in Maitama, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) would now house the Ministry of Power and its agencies, whose offices are located in different parts of Abuja.
Also, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has also withdrawn the funds it hitherto allocates for the maintenance of the PHCN head office. The Act provides a legislative framework for the reform of the power sector in accordance with the policies set out in the National Electric Power Policy. It removes operational and regulatory responsibilities of the industry from the government. It provides the legal backing for the unbundling of PHCN, formation of successor companies to take over the functions, assets, liabilities and personnel of the parastatal.
Nnaji said: “PHCN is no longer legally in existence and as a result, the regulatory agency simply in its responsibility had instructed the market operator that the PHCN headquarters is not a market participant and it should no longer get funds in effect from this month and that is just in carrying out the law; implementing what is stated in the law.
“Now, the PHCN workers in order to get paid, they need to be transferred to where they can be useful. You talked about redundancy, what’s the point of people just sitting in their offices doing nothing? Who is benefitting? Nigerians are paying their salaries and they need to be working to continue to advance the power sector.”
The minister stressed that what the government aims to do is to ensure that electricity workers justified their pay. “They won’t get salaries if they sit in the headquarters; there is no money to pay them. It is almost like what we are talking about in the fuel subsidy case; if there is no money for subsidy in the budget, where will the money come from? We have a similar situation where there is no money to pay people in headquarters and so it requires that we get them to where they have specialisation amongst the 18 successor companies so that they can be paid.”
Nnaji said sometimes labour unions forget the rules of engagement, among which is the existence of relationship between management and workers, adding that “you cannot tell people who employ you not to come into the building. There is no place where that happens and so I think when you begin to distort ownership versus worker relationship, then we have the kind of situation we had a couple of days ago and it’s not good.”
He wondered why workers would be shutting government’s officials from electricity facilities and offices, stressing that NERC and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) should be able to go to any of the power installations without hindrance from anybody. Nnaji said the sector is not created for persons but for Nigerians to get stable electricity. The minister declared that for proper reforms in the sector, Nigerians should not be personal about it.
“What is important is that the workers are going to be transferred to either distribution, generating or electricity services management companies or to even NELMCO and the bulk trader properly with their salaries and they will continue to work in the sector, nobody will be discharged.”
According to him, “the PHCN building will revert to the power sector and house the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), NERC, Ministry of Power, the Bulk Trader and NELMCO. It is very important to consolidate the ministry because right now, you have people scattered all over the place.”