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|The Fg And Phcn Face-off by pmmonday: 2:43pm On Aug 22, 2012
THE FG AND PHCN FACE-OFF
By: Nigeria Tribune
THE Minister of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji recently shed more light on the impasse between the Federal Government and the workers at the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) over the issue of their severance pay. He, according to the reports, even threw barbs at the workers, calling them outlaws who were bent on getting what did not belong to them.
The Minister had been addressing the press after the ministerial briefing of President Goodluck Jonathan on the performance of the 2012 budget during which he dismissed the claim that the government was planning to pay the PHCN workers the sum of 85,000 naira across board. He noted that too much falsehood had been peddled about government’s position on the matter.
ACCORDING to the Minister: “That has to do with how much they are going to take. They say it is N85, 000. I cannot understand how they could say that. Many of the people who are junior officers, some of them with WASC qualification are going to go home with N8 million. Somebody who is in the position of an Assistant General Manager could go home with N28 million. What we are saying is that there is a range. The highest officer could go home with N38 million.”
This revelation about the outlandish and generous severance pay for the workers of a government company that has successfully riled the people of this country over the years with poor performance or non-performance will definitely rile the people further. It even seems to confirm the people’s cynicism about the inconsistency in the reward system in which diligence, performance and productivity are not necessarily given due consideration. In a manner of speaking, the minister was right on target when he called the PHCN workers outlaws bent on getting what did not belong to them.
APART from that, Professor Nnaji had averred to the fraud on the claims of contributory pension fund in which money was deducted from workers’ salaries on the pretext of paying it into their retirement account but which was never done. The demand of the PHCN workers for the payment of 25 per cent of the benefit at the point of severance had been predicated on these deductions which the government had found to be an absolute falsehood. The Minister also said that a panel, headed by a former Auditor-General of the Federation, had been set up by the government to investigate the deductions which were not remitted into the account.
THERE are two fundamental issues which derive from the Minister’s revelations. The first has to do with the huge severance pay that will eventually accrue to workers of an organisation that has unarguably failed the country, most especially against the backdrop of decayed infrastructure and its reverberating effects on employment. PHCN without any doubt contributed immensely to the de-industrialisation of Nigeria, the relocation of several factories and therefore the upswing of youth unemployment and criminality. PHCN also once had the distinction of being listed as a leading company in the country’s corruption index.
It simply is absurd to imagine that the workers of such an organisation will be going home with such a golden handshake having dealt the country and its people a deadly blow. Since the company is being privatised, should the people not be worried that the jumbo severance pay will not be transferred to them through the sale of the company’s assets and liabilities to private concerns? What positive hints can such transactions give other workers, especially in the unorganised private sector, who invariably bear the brunt of the lapses so committed? It is instructive that the workers have not reacted to the minister’s claims about their jumbo severance pay since his press briefing.
THE second issue is about the criminal conversion of the deductions from the workers’ salaries. This has become a common practice in Nigeria for which people are rarely punished. Deductions that are expected to be for cooperative unions and government’s taxes indicated on the pay slips rarely get to their approved destinations. At the point of severance, both through foreclosure or retirement, the workers become victims of financial scams and they are grateful to receive their entitlements less the deductions that had been made during their active years. This is callous and should not be allowed.
Elsewhere, people go to jail for such offences and it is because perpetrators of this crime have not been brought to book that the practice has become so rife. Examples should be made of those who pinched the deductions at PHCN after the investigative panel must have completed its job to deter others from the crime of criminal conversion which such a crime amounts to.
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