The Federal Government has said workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria will start receiving the pay cheques for their severance benefits from this week in preparation for the conclusion of the privatisation of the power sector.
The Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, said this at a power sector development forum organised by the Federal Ministry of Power in conjunction with a German power firm, Siemens, in Abuja on Tuesday.
“There has been a directive for the payment of the PHCN workers, which may commence this week,” he said.
Nebo also said that a proper audit of the payment processes, which delayed the final disbursement of funds to the workers, had been concluded.
The minister said the Federal Government had so far disbursed N21.2bn to the three segments of the nation’s electricity supply industry.
The segments, according to him, are electricity generation, transmission and distribution companies.
While outlining the efforts made in funding the sector, he said, “These include the release of AfDB (African Development Bank) loan of $100m to the TCN (Transmission Company of Nigeria) for critical transmission projects, and the release of N5.2bn special intervention fund to distribution and generation companies for operation and maintenance services.”
The minister’s explanation on the disbursed funds may not be unconnected to allegations by the National Assembly that lack of budgetary allocations for the operations of the PHCN successor companies had negatively impacted their performances.
This, the lawmakers said, had led to the decline in the general supply of electricity in the country.
Nebo observed that the sector was confronted with numerous challenges when he assumed office, but gave an assurance that the government was resolute in its resolve to fix the decay in the industry.
He said, “When I assumed office, there were numerous challenges that posed a cog in the wheel of progress vis-a-vis the power reform agenda, which included among others, labour negotiations, which were stalled because of complaints about non-coverage of temporary staff in the settlement scheme.
“There were existing schisms between TCN and Manitoba because of unclear delineation of roles. Consequently, Manitoba workers weren’t allowed access to their offices; the transmission network, which hitherto had received very little investment, was becoming increasingly unstable and more sensitive to new generation.
“There was uncertainty and loss of confidence among some of our key investors and critical development partners about the commitment of the government to the reform process and the transformation of the power sector in general.
“We were faced with the arduous task of getting the sector back on the transformation track. I stand here to tell you that we have managed to steer the ship in the right direction and have recorded some significant achievements ever since.”
Nebo said the recent loss of 1,598 megawatts of electricity due to vandalism at two critical gas pipelines supplying gas to eight power plants in the country was a typical setback encountered by the ministry.
“The situation remains critical but we are fully determined to rectify it in the shortest possible time,” he added.
The minister noted that the Federal Government was also increasing efforts to attract more foreign direct investments to the sector, adding that it would continue to push policies, reforms and incentives that would make the emerging market a preferred target destination for the world’s leading power companies.
On government’s involvement with Siemens, Nebo said the initiative was undertaken to ensure that the privatisation exercise ushered in an electricity market that could regulate itself using market variables.
Information from Punch was used in this report.