Friday, 18 November 2011 09:58   
Controversial Biometric Verification at PHCN Deepens Industrial Crises

The Federal Government will pay the promised increase arrears of salary only to biometrically verified staff of PHCN, Mrs Ibikun Odusote, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Power, has said.

Odusote made the position of the Federal Government known in a statement made available on Thursday in Abuja.

She said funds for the arrears of the payment promised by Mr President was available and would only be paid to biometrically verified PHCN workers with effect from September.

Odusote explained that the present administration was ready to implement 50 per cent wage increase for PHCN workers, adding that government, however, noticed ghost workers that induced the wage bill increase.

She said that in order to avert this, all PHCN staff had been directed to subject themselves to biometric data capturing similar to what obtained in government ministries and agencies.

The permanent secretary said that the resistance of this directive by PHCN staff was against the policy trust of the present administration and, therefore, unacceptable to the government

``Since its inception in Nigeria a few years back, the biometric has been mandatory, unconditional, and consequential, therefore, PHCN workers cannot be an exception,'' she said.

She stated that biometric data capturing could only be resisted by workers who were benefiting from a porous system that condoned corruption.

The permanent secretary also said that Federal Government due to the security challenges in the country had deployed security personnel to all major infrastructure to protect government investments.

According to her, these are preemptive measures to protect citizens employed in these organisations to safeguard power installations.

``Electricity is one of those critically infrastructure where workers must not go on strike because doing so is tantamount to willfully removing the sovereignty of Nigeria.

``Such action, under any disguise, is seen by this government as a crime against the State,'' she said.

Odusote further said that the security personnel had been instructed to protect the lives of workers, and guard installations from possible terror attacks that could throw the nation into total darkness.

Also, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) on Thursday alleged that soldiers deployed to PHCN facilities in Lagos were molesting its members.

Mr Mbang Ntukubes, the Vice Chairman of the Lagos/Ogun chapter of NUEE, said in Lagos that the union members were being molested in the Egbin, Eko and Ikeja distribution zones.

Ntukubes said that the PHCN workers were manhandled while peacefully protesting the deployment of soldiers to PHCN facilities nationwide.

Ntukubes said that the workers would not return to their duty posts if the Federal Government failed to withdraw the soldiers from all PHCN facilities.

According to him, there is no worker that will work effectively under intimidation.

``About 20 workers were reported to have been brutalised by the soldiers in Lagos.

``We are being intimidated with guns and no worker can work under such a condition.

“We implore all concerned to prevail on the government to withdraw the soldiers so that workers can go back to their duty posts,’’ he said.

Ntukubes alleged that the soldiers were deployed to the PHCN facilities to lay off workers without paying their severance allowances.

``The Federal Government ought to have informed the workers before taking such a decision.

``There are better ways of providing security to PHCN facilities without deploying soldiers that will intimidate workers,’’ Ntukubes added.

But Mr Mike Uzoigwe, the Chief Executive Officer at the Egbin Thermal Station in Ikorodu, Lagos,however, said that no worker was molested by soldiers at the station.

Uzoigwe said that the situation at Egbin was calm, adding that the thermal station was working at optimal capacity while workers were going about their duties.

``You can see that there is free movement of workers in and out of the station. Nobody wants to sabotage the operations at Egbin,’’ he said.

Mr Bakare Adetokunbo, the Chairman, Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, Egbin chapter, said that deployment of soldiers to the station had not been a threat to the workers.

Adetokunbo added that the soldier were doing their duty while the workers were doing theirs as well.

``Nobody has been brutalised in Egbin Power Station and the soldiers have been guiding our facilities. So the presence of the soldiers is not a threat to us.

``Five out of the six units in the station are working at full capacity and we hope that the six unit will come up soon,’’ he said.

The workers’ strike entered its third day on Thursday, Nov. 17.

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