Prof Chinedu Nebo
•N’Assembly invites bidders for parley
•Staff kick against disengagment
and Linda Eroke
The federal government has said its final liquidation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) will be achieved with its imminent declaration of the Transitional Electricity Market (TEM) in the next couple of weeks.
It said PHCN has functionally seized to exist, following the privatisation of its successor generation and distribution companies, but will finally go into extinction when TEM is declared based on the anticipated advice of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
Also, the Power Committees of the National Assembly have said they would invite the various preferred bidders of PHCN successor companies to a parley to discuss their plans on the expansion and sustenance of their acquired assets.
The Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, stated yesterday in Abuja, after inaugurating a 10-man management team of the newly-created Electricity Management Services Limited (EMSL) that the formal hand-over of privatised PHCN companies would bring the life of the state-owned utility to an end.
“We have come very close to the end of PHCN. Basically, almost all of the staff have been paid. What is left is independent retirement benefit that is going to be paid into their accounts.
“We are actually ready to hand over and many of the companies are willing to take over. The only thing is that the minister needs to declare a transitional electricity market and that will be done when all the conditions precedent to that declaration have been put in place,” he said.
Nebo further stated: “NERC will advice me when to do that, and NERC is actually having a retreat now to make sure that everything is in place, and that all the i’s are dotted and the ‘t’s’ crossed before the declaration of the transitional electricity market.
The minister explained that the newly created EMSL was one of the successor companies of the privatised PHCN, established to handle technical challenges that would arise in the post-privatisation era.
The company, he said, would among other functions, provide all the needed ancillary and support services previously offered by PHCN to the new Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), adding that such services like engineering laboratory, meter testing, testing and certification of major electrical equipment in the sector as well as standardisation of equipment used in NESI would be the sole responsibility of EMS.
“When you have a situation as we have in Nigeria now, privatisation is almost coming to a conclusion, but we realised that there needs to be a body to ensure that certification of all electricity equipment, whether they are in generation, transmission, or distribution, that equipment that are being brought into Nigeria and facilities that are going to be used in the electricity industry are all top brand, and not fake equipment that are injurious to the lives of people, and bring about danger in the entire community,” Nebo said in justification of the need for EMS.
He further explained: “You need stations, all over the country that are up and running. You don’t need to make it 100 per cent a private enterprise. It is going to be a commercial enterprise eventually where facilities that are being set up by these distribution companies and so on, whatever they are setting up needs to be certified because if they are doing expansion, they cannot expand in vacuum.
“They are going to be bringing in equipment, and we want to make sure that the equipment meet global best standards in regards to efficiency and proficiency.”
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Power, Senator Philip Aduda, said in a related development that the National Assembly had deemed it necessary to invite the preferred bidders of PHCN to a parley in view of the importance of their acquired assets to Nigeria.
But dissatisfied with the suggestion that PHCN workers be disengaged forthwith, the organised labour, who are also staff members of the PHCN headquarters, Abuja has berated the NERC for the suggestion, noting that the regulatory body lacks the power to do so.
Speaking under the umbrella of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), the union contended that the Power Sector Reform Act 2005 that established NERC did not confer on it the functions and powers to recommend the stoppage of payments and disengagement of PHCN employees.
Responding to the NERC’s memo to the Minister of Power, the union’s secretary, Joe Ajaero, urged the management of NERC to concentrate on its assigned roles of monitoring and regulating the electricity industry rather than the advocacy of disengagement of gainfully employed workers.
It noted that the utterances of NERC contradict the policy of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, which has employment generation as one of its cardinal objectives.
It suggested that rather than sending the employees into the oversaturated labour market, the affected staff should be posted to NERC and the 11 distribution companies.
Besides, it emphasised that the staff members of PHCN had not been paid off, adding that there were unresolved issues agitating their minds.
The letter read: “We have noted with dismay your call for the disengagement from their legitimate employment, members of staff of PHCN. One then wonders why you should be at the vanguard for the advocacy of disengagement of workers already gainfully employed.
NERC is equally operating contrary to the policy of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, which has employment generation as one of its cardinal objectives
“NERC has equally advocated for increase in tariff which the poor masses may find very excruciating to bear.
“We are undoubtedly irked by this seeming callous act and demand the retraction of this memo and advise that you should concentrate on your assigned roles.