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