Wednesday, 22 May 2013
There Is Nothing Special About The Improvement In Electricity Supply – Labor Leader, Mr. Joseph Ajero
The much talked about improvement in power supply in Nigeria has been dismissed as mere seasonal increase by the General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Mr. Joseph Ajero. He made the assertion during an exclusive interview with SaharaTV’s Rudolf Okonkwo over the weekend.
“Well, the improvement is not carried out by Prof Bart or anybody in his department; they do not work in the power stations…” Mr. Ajero said. “If there is improvement, it’s by the workforce.”
He went on to explain, “However, by this time of the year every year, because there is this water level in the hydro dams, when the water level improves, the dams do very well.”
Mr. Ajero challenged the Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji to provide a relative analysis of the improvement this year and that of last year for Nigerians to compare. He added, “there was equally an argument that the gas supply has improved so already we have installed capacity of nearly 7,000 mega watts. If we have that installed capacity and gas situation improves and the water level improves, definitely the power supply will improve.”
The National Union of Electricity Employees has been at loggerhead with the minister starting from when he was an adviser to the presidency on Power. The NUEE has accused the minister of having conflict of interest in his dealings with the power sector. They also blame him for not following due process in his bid to privatize the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). Of recent, however, the sticking point has been over workers' entitlements.
Ajero, who is also the Deputy President of the Nigerian Labor Congress, described as unacceptable the minister's decision to ignore the condition of service of staff thus cutting their entitlement by as much as 50 percent. He blamed the problem on the minister’s undervaluation of PHCN's assets.
“The evaluation they came out with, they said it’s about 200 billion Naira,” Mr. Ajero said. “And N200 billion Naira is not up to the landed property or houses of the PHCN. So having devalued it and they have entitlement that is more than even what they valued the PHCN, they are trying to justify their evaluation.”
Mr. Ajero alleged that the minister collected N395 million for PHCN for media in three months reaffirming that, “this is in black and white.” He charged that this was fraudulent, “PHCN does not fund the Ministry of Power, ministry has its own budget… the money was not appropriated that’s the allegation,” Ajero stated.
Last week, Mr. Ajero called on the minister to resign for taking money out of PHCN to pay the military who are guarding PHCN installations. He also accused the minister of buying two bullet-proof vehicles with the approval of President Goodluck Jonathan while at the same time claiming there was no money to pay workers their entitlement. The union leader announced that he was exploring legal options as well as the possibility of tabling the case before the National Assembly.
On the allegation that his electricity union members were conniving with generator importers to frustrate reforms in the power sector, Mr. Ajero told SaharaTV’s Rudolf Okonkwo that it was part of Prof. Nnaji’s effort to criminalize the agitations of the workers using mischievous allegations.
“During the time of President Olusegun Obasanjo,” Ajero said, “the major importer of generators to the (Aso Rock) villa was Prof. Bart Nnaji. So he is in that league.” He then added, “If there is a relationship between us and the importers they should make it public.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) has now joined in the call for Prof. Bart Nnaji to negotiate with the workers and pay them their entitlements. But most Nigerians do not have any sympathy for the electricity workers or the NLC for that matter, a fact that did not escape Mr. Ajero.
“They don’t need to have sympathy for my union,” he said. “We don’t deserve sympathy from them. What we need is our entitlement.”
To watch the full interview visit http://youtu.be/k2uJuzXEGDw