Eg­bin power, work­ers’ union in face-off over hous­ing es­tate

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - From Mo­hammed Shosanya, La­gos

At the Eg­bin Power Plant Plc in Iko­rodu, La­gos State, the com­pany’s man­age­ment is en­gaged in a face-off with some work­ers, most of them for­mer staff and re­tirees, over the lat­ter’s residential sta­tus in the com­pany’s hous­ing es­tate.

The work­ers, un­der the um­brella of the Se­nior Staff As­so­ci­a­tion of Elec­tric­ity and Al­lied Com­pa­nies (SSEAC) and Na­tional Union of Elec­tric­ity Em­ploy­ees (NUEE), al­leged that about 7pm on Fri­day, “over 50 thugs in­vaded the es­tate and re­moved the roofs of apart­ments of staff and re­tirees of the work­ers, os­ten­si­bly to force them out of their apart­ments, thereby de­stroy­ing their per­sonal ef­fects.”

Our cor­re­spon­dent, who vis­ited the Eg­bin es­tate on Satur­day, re­ports that 12 apart­ments of TCN work­ers were sacked by the “thugs.”

Our cor­re­spon­dent also saw some ejected staff and re­tirees of the TCN mov­ing out their per­sonal ef­fects out of the premises, while oth­ers were look­ing for­lorn, un­sure of their next des­ti­na­tion.

But the com­pany’s man­age­ment has been quick to punc­ture the work­ers’ claims, de­scrib­ing them in a news­pa­per ad­ver­to­rial yesterday as “illegal oc­cu­pants threat­en­ing on­go­ing trans­for­ma­tion at Eg­bin Power Plant Plc”.

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of Eg­bin Power Plc, Dal­las Peavey Jr, ear­lier in a state­ment at the week­end, stated that the “con­tin­ued pres­ence of illegal oc­cu­pants at the Eg­bin Power Plc. Hous­ing Es­tate con­sti­tutes a ma­jor chal­lenge to en­sur­ing sus­tained trans­for­ma­tion, as well as to se­cu­rity of lives and prop­erty on the plant.”

The oc­cu­pants of the es­tate in­cluded re­tirees of the de­funct Power Hold­ing Com­pany of Nige­ria (PHCN), staff of the Trans­mis­sion Com­pany of Nige­ria (TCN) and per­son­nel of Eg­bin Power Plc, who lay le­git­i­mate claim to the own­er­ship of the es­tate, in­clud­ing schools and hos­pi­tal therein.

The staff of TCN and re­tirees of the de­funct PHCN main­tain that the es­tate is out­side the as­sets of the plant bought by the new own­ers of the Eg­bin plant dur­ing the pri­va­ti­za­tion. This po­si­tion, they say, “places them in the van­tage po­si­tion to uti­lize the prop­erty to the es­sen­tial na­ture of their work and their long years of ser­vice in the for­mer public util­ity.”

Both war­ring par­ties have been al­leg­ing sabotage against each other on power sup­ply. The work­ers, over the week­end, claimed that the cur­rent power sup­ply in the coun­try “may be short­ened by 1200 megawatts due to the on­go­ing face-off be­tween the man­age­ment of Eg­bin Power Plc and the oc­cu­pants of hous­ing es­tates within the fa­cil­ity.”

But the com­pany’s man­age­ment fired back in its ad­ver­to­rial yesterday that the ejected work­ers were ac­tu­ally the “illegal oc­cu­pants who are bent on crip­pling its oper­a­tions”

The com­pany said it has it “on good au­thor­ity that the illegal oc­cu­pants who have re­fused to leave the plant’s hous­ing es­tate since Novem­ber 1, 2013, are set to make good their threat to sabotage Eg­bin’s oper­a­tions.”

The SSEAC and NUEE have vowed

to take le­gal ac­tion against Eg­bin Power Plc over what they main­tained was al­leged force­ful ejec­tion of their mem­bers from the Eg­bin hous­ing es­tate. SSEAC’s Pres­i­dent, Com­rade Bede Opara told our cor­re­spon­dent that the le­gal ac­tion would be taken this week.

Some staff of the TCN told our cor­re­spon­dent that their ejec­tion from the es­tate may pose se­ri­ous chal­lenge to their pro­duc­tiv­ity.

A se­nior TCN staffer, who pleaded anonymity, ex­pressed dis­sat­is­fac­tion over his ejec­tion by the Eg­bin Power Plc man­age­ment “with­out”, he main­tained, “due process and req­ui­site quit no­tice.”

He nar­rated, ’’I was in Ibadan on Satur­day when I was in­formed that thugs in­vaded my apart­ment the pre­vi­ous day. I had no op­tion than to rush down here to pack my per­sonal ef­fects to safe place.”

The de­jected staff said of one of his ju­nior col­leagues was beaten by the sol­diers sta­tioned at the en­try to the com­pany over an en­su­ing ar­gu­ment that bor­dered on the fail­ure of the col­league to ren­der full ac­count of his per­sonal ef­fects to the soldier.

He said the staff was later rushed to a nearby hos­pi­tal, where he is presently re­cu­per­at­ing.

Another staff of the trans­mis­sion com­pany told our cor­re­spon­dent that the ac­tion of the Eg­bin Power Plc could af­fect the abil­ity of his col­leagues to wheel out about 1200 megawatts of elec­tric­ity from the com­pany.

“Here, we work 24 hours a day to serve the coun­try with elec­tric­ity. How do you ex­pect us to de­liver this with our cur­rent state of home­less­ness?”, he moaned.

A re­tiree of the de­funct PHCN, Al­haji La­teef, who claimed to have been liv­ing in the es­tate for the last 31 years, re­canted how the thugs in­vaded his premises, say­ing the com­pany acted in bad faith with the sud­den ejec­tion of the oc­cu­pants.

Alh La­teef said the re­tirees had con­tested the en­croach­ment on the prop­erty by the Eg­bin Power Plc at a La­gos High Court, adding that ver­dict on the suit was fixed for Oc­to­ber 22 this year.

He told our cor­re­spon­dent that the re­tirees would ap­proach the court to­day to chal­lenge the ac­tion of the power com­pany.

Another re­tiree, a fe­male, al­leged that the thugs came into the es­tate at 7pm on Fri­day in five buses. She al­leged they stole her money and jew­el­ries. and de­stroyed other per­sonal ef­fects.

The Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of SSEAC, Bar­ris­ter Duba­gari Umar Abubakar, crit­i­cized the ac­tion of the man­age­ment of Eg­bin Power Plc,

while blam­ing the Bureau of Public En­ter­prises (BPE) for what he main­tained was the shoddy pri­va­ti­za­tion of the PHCN. Abubakar added that the es­tate in the premises of the Eg­bin Power Plc was not part of the core as­sets sold to the new own­ers by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. Abubakar is now look­ing to­wards the court to pro­vide the af­fected union mem­bers a re­lief.

Opara im­plored the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to “stop the im­punity demon­strated by the power com­pany.”

But Peavey ar­gued that Eg­bin, whose sus­tained 1,100mw gen­er­a­tion is be­lieved to be driv­ing the re­cent in­crease in the na­tion’s power sup­ply, faces a huge set­back from the cur­rent hous­ing con­straints due to ac­tiv­i­ties of the “illegal oc­cu­pants who were for­mer em­ploy­ees of the de­funct PHCN.

Ac­cord­ing to Peavey, the il­le­git­i­mate res­i­dents, their wards and cer­tain groups in the com­mu­nity have been linked with plans to dis­rupt the oper­a­tions of the plant and other mis­de­meanors oc­cur­ring on the fa­cil­ity.

“The illegal oc­cu­pants are not doc­u­mented and this is a huge risk in an en­closed en­vi­ron­ment. Out­comes from var­i­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tions show that some of the crim­i­nal and un­to­ward acts per­pe­trated in the es­tate have been traced to in­di­vid­u­als linked to some of the for­mer PHCN staff, most of whom have ei­ther re­tired or have been trans­ferred about eight years ago, but have re­fused to va­cate the es­tate af­ter be­ing served quit no­tices for over two years now.

“They con­tinue to ha­rass our staff and is­sue threats of ma­jor dis­rup­tions to the fa­cil­ity. The sit­u­a­tion de­serves im­me­di­ate na­tional at­ten­tion con­sid­er­ing the strate­gic role Eg­bin plays in the power sec­tor.”

The Eg­bin Power CEO said the hous­ing con­straint is tak­ing its toll on the tech­ni­cal per­son­nel and engi­neers who work on shift and on-call duty.

He ex­plained that no fewer than 150 mem­bers of staff are be­ing de­nied ac­com­mo­da­tion by the sit­u­a­tion, a de­vel­op­ment, he added, had led to end­less cases of “trauma and im­peded pro­duc­tiv­ity.” in the com­pany.

Most of the tech­ni­cal per­son­nel and engi­neers have had to seek ac­com­mo­da­tion out­side the com­pany’s fa­cil­ity and now find it dif­fi­cult to at­tend to call du­ties es­pe­cially when it oc­curs at odd hours, he noted. Em­ploy­ees on shift duty oper­a­tions that end late in the night en­counter, he said, sev­eral se­cu­rity risks on their way home.

“Grad­u­ate engi­neers are crammed into a three­bed­room, with many more staff and their fam­i­lies be­ing dis­lodged. We are call­ing for the prompt in­ter­ven­tion of the gov­ern­ment and law en­force­ment agen­cies to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion to en­sure ad­e­quate se­cu­rity of lives and prop­erty, and most im­por­tantly, sus­tained trans­for­ma­tion in Eg­bin,” Peavey ap­pealed.

1,320mw Eg­bin Power Sta­tion, La­gos

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