• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

PHCN Staff and power reforms

Trapped in “PHCN privatization”

As expected, the roadmap for improved delivery of power in Nigeria contained two critical elements that we believe will ensure that the new dispensation and approach will truly lead to improved power supply if implemented properly. These elements are: that the reforms should be private sector-led and customer driven. The second element is that the delivery of power should be decentralized.

However, the strike by staff of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) during the days leading to the presentation of the roadmap gave the strongest indication that majority of them are somewhat against the direction of reforms in the sector. While it may just be a coincidence, it is known that some areas have actually experienced deteriorating power supply since the roadmap presentation a few weeks ago.

It is understandable that people should sometimes resist reforms, especially when such reforms will lead to changes to their jobs and or privileges. To this extent, the situation with PHCN staff should not be seen as odd. Changes and reforms generate a sense of uncertainty and insecurity in individuals, especially PHCN staff. It is thus the responsibility of government to ensure that the purpose and aim of its reforms are clearly spelt out so that they are not misconstrued. If effectively implemented, the changes that the reforms will bring will expand industries, stimulate the much anticipated investments, generate growth and bring about jobs for those already in the industry and others in many other sectors of the economy.

This is expected, but PHCN staff will need to be convinced that their interest is captured in the reforms as well. The workers, giving reasons for their strike, accused the government of non-payment of some of their entitlements in the last seven years. Some of these include pensions and leave entitlements. Some, they claim, are denied promotion. These agitations, PHCN staff needs to be told, will be a thing of the past in a privatized power sector. No private sector operator who is doing well in business will deliberately fail to take care of its good workforce. It is easier for pension default to go unpunished in the public sector than in the private sector.

Read Also: NELMCO saves FG N92 bn on PHCN liabilities- MD

One of the reasons why government finds it difficult to meet some of the demands is that it sees PHCN as a drain pipe, and no amount of money will be enough to run it the way it is currently structured. We agree. The critical problem is the current structure of PHCN staff; not the individuals that work for it. Government’s interference is responsible for poor power delivery in the country, and unless government divests itself of the Company, it cannot remove its control.

At the other end, labour needs to be assured that its members can prosper much better under the private sector. The defining word, however, is productivity. There are many factors that increase the efficiency and effectiveness of any organization and labour is one very important factor. Labour is a treasure in every private sector-led economic system. Workers should support a privatized power sector.

The government has drawn up what seems like a very ambitious timetable. What is most important now is for all stakeholders to join forces to ensure that Nigeria ceases to be a nation in darkness. The darkness has hovered for too long. Now is the time to say “let there be light”.