Pension dispute: FG deploys more soldiers in PHCN HQLatest Politics Tuesday, July 24th, 2012
July 24, 2012 by Everest Amaefule and Fidelis Soriwei 141 Comments
The Federal Government on Monday deployed more troops in the headquarters of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Abuja. It warned that the soldiers would remain on the premises if the threat by the workers continued.
Soldiers and policemen were on Friday deployed in the Abuja head office of the PHCN over the workers’ dispute with the Federal Government on their pension and gratuities.
In a telephone interview with our correspondent in Abuja on Monday, the Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, said the soldiers and the policemen would not be withdrawn for now.
The Chairman of the National Union of Electricity Employees, FCT Chapter, Mr. Wisdom Nwachukwu, had on Friday condemned the government over the deployment and threatened that the workers would not resume until the last soldier had been withdrawn from the office complex.
But Nnaji said on Monday that the government was justified given that the workers had started behaving in a disruptive manner “and we had to take steps to secure government property and installations.”
The minister said, “We required them to sign an undertaken of good behaviour before they could enter the complex.
“We spoke with their General Secretary and we agreed that they could enter the office as long as they conducted themselves in an orderly manner. Given the security situation in the country, we cannot allow the breakdown of law and order in any government establishment.”
Meanwhile, the PHCN workers resumed at the headquarters on Monday in spite of the presence of securitymen.
The workers insisted that they should be allowed into their offices and worked without disturbance.
The Federal Government and electricity workers are in disagreement over the workers’ terminal benefits subsequent to moving to successor companies that would soon be sold to private sector operators.
While the workers had insisted that they should benefit from the scheme that had been in place at PHCN before the Pension Reform Act of 2004, the government said it would not revert to the old pension scheme.
Explaining the government’s position on Monday, Nnaji said negotiations with workers broke down after eight sessions.
He added that a meeting would be held with the workers’ representatives later on Monday. The outcome of the promised meeting was not known to The PUNCH on Monday.
“We will not go outside the law. We will not budge on that. To us, that is not a disagreement. We are a government and we cannot go outside the law,” the minister said.
He explained that while the government had accepted to bear the entire 15 per cent of the contributory pension fund, the workers were insisting on 25 per cent contrary to the provision of the law.
He added that the government had made sufficient provision to cater for the terminal benefits of the workers according to the Pension Reform Act of 2004.
Meanwhile, there were indications on Monday that the National Assembly had waded into the dispute between the government and the PHCN workers.
Nwachukwu told our correspondent on the telephone that the workers would decide the next line of action after the outcome of the intervention by the National Assembly and a meeting with the Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu, and Nnaji.
He however expressed shock that rather than withdrawing the soldiers from the PHCN facility with the intervention of the National Assembly, more soldiers were deployed in the place.
He said that the soldiers took over the gate and allowed the workers access to the premises only when national officials of NUEE came in from Lagos to intervene.
The leadership of the NUEE led by its Secretary General, Mr. Joe Ajaero, on Monday reportedly met with a Senate team.
Nwachukwu also said that a meeting of NUEE, the Nigeria Labour Congress, and the ministers of Power, and Labour was scheduled to take place later in the day.
He said, “The NLC wrote to the President, the National Assembly and the minister to withdraw the soldiers.
“Rather than withdrawing the soldiers, they deployed more troops in our office and the soldiers took over the gate and directed our people to stay 100 meters away from the office. But we said no and insisted that we must work in our offices.
“As we are talking, the soldiers are still on the premises we are working with soldiers inside our complex and you can imagine the effect of that on the workers. The workers are really apprehensive about this situation.”
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