Ministry of Power has asked the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to help the Federal Government trace the whereabouts of PHCN workers’ contributions, which the labour body asked government to pay within seven days or face a nation-wide strike. NLC reportedly issued a seven-day ultimatum for government to pay PHCN workers their alleged 25 per cent contribution to their superannuation scheme as terminal benefits as well as withdraw security from PHCN installations, failing which organised labour would embark on a nation-wide strike.
The Ministry of Power expressed the readiness of the Federal Government to promptly pay the 25 per cent contributions as soon as all parties were able to establish the whereabouts of the funds so far contributed by workers of the PHCN.
In a statement, the Ministry of Power said: “For the umpteenth time, let it be stated that the Government has no problem with PHCN workers getting the money they have contributed under their Superannuation Scheme.
“The PHCN Superannuation Scheme is managed by the PHCN management and the leadership of the three Unions in the sector who are the trustees. In other words, the management of PHCN and the leadership of the workers union have hitherto supervised the deductions and managed their disbursements.
“At the various labour negotiations meetings, the Government had requested the Unions and Management of PHCN to indicate where the funds are kept so that they could be used for the purpose of paying severance benefits.
“The Government has equally asked any PHCN worker whose salary has reflected this 25 per cent contribution to show up with pay-slips showing the deduction. To date, no one has stepped forward with this evidence.
“It is obvious that the workers’ union and the management did not deduct 25 per cent from workers’ salaries and therefore may have for many years been doing creative accounting to be able to pay those who have hitherto retired from the service.
“In the absence of funds to implement the Superannuation Scheme, the Government has ruled that, rather than go home with nothing, the workers should revert to the Pension Reform Act and be paid from there.
“To this end, the Government magnanimously withdrew taxpayers’ money from the treasury to pay for the PHCN and its 50,000 workforce the outstanding 15 per cent of its pension premiums under the Pension Reform Act, with effect from July 1, 2004.
“The total funds withdrawn by government for this exercise is N80 billion, which are about to be disbursed to the PHCN staff as severance and pension benefits. It is equally important to stress that this N80 billion represent tax payers’ money that government took from its treasury, to pay PHCN workers whose unions and management irresponsibly toyed with their pensions and gratuities under their ill-fated Superannuation Scheme,” it stated.