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TCN workers protest ministry’s takeover plan of HQ

Palpable fear has gripped workers at the Transmission Company of Nigeria following the decision of the Ministry of Power to move into the building housing the headquarters of the firm.

Following the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria into 18 independent power firms, TCN had inherited the headquarters building of the former electricity monopoly as the only remaining government entity.

Investigation by our correspondent, however, showed that President Goodluck Jonathan had approved the movement of the Ministry of Power to the building. A committee has been set up by the ministry to handle the movement of the workers.

The Special Assistant on Media to the Minister of Power, Kande Daniel, confirmed the Presidential approval in a telephone interview with our correspondent.

The fear at the TCN is not just that the company, now managed by Manitoba Hydro International, will be squeezed into three floors, but that the transmission company will lose operational independence to the ministry.

Our correspondent learnt that not all the 708employees of the ministry would move into the new complex. Some will remain at the Federal Secretariat, which currently houses the Ministry of Power and other ministries.

In the new scheme, the ministry will take over the fourth and fifth floors of the complex; the TCN 600 to 700 workers of the TCN will occupy the first three floors; while residual members of staff of the defunct PHCN will occupy the basement.

A source at TCN, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said the real target of the ministry’s workers was the fund earmarked by the government for transmission as they have lost access to all the successor companies following their privatisation.

The source said, “You are aware that the all the generation and distribution companies have been sold to private operators. It is only the TCN that is still remaining. They want to come and meddle in our operations.

“As the generation and distribution companies are working to improve their capacities, we also need to increase the transmission capacity. We cannot afford to hold the sector back, but that is what they want to inflict on the country with their civil service culture.

“They want to derail the roll out of transmission infrastructure. Government has been pumping money into this place and the money is their target. If actually they need accommodation, why don’t they take over the annexe building located in Wuse 2?”

The TCN had recently disclosed that it had received over N102bn from both the Federal Government and international donor agencies to boost power transmission infrastructure across the country, adding that it required about $1.5bn annually to be able to evacuate the power being produced by the generation companies.

Other sources of funds received include $150m from the African Development Bank, $170m from French Development Agency and $200m from the Japanese International Corporation Agency.

The Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, had recently said the Federal Government would spend $2.86bn between 2013 and 2017 in order to give the nation a transmission infrastructure that could carry 16,000 megawatts of electricity.

Maku said a transmission expansion blueprint prepared by the Presidential Action Committee on Power committed the government to a transmission capacity of 16,000MW.

He said the government was committed to funding the programme, which will cost $2.86bn, listing the sources of funding to include the African Development Bank, $150m; World Bank, $290m and Eurobond, $150m.

Other funding sources include a $500m loan from the China Export Import Bank, $1.6bn proceeds from the sale of the National Integrated Power Plants, and $170m budgetary appropriation.

The fear of interference by the workers of the TCN is not far-fetched as parallels already exist in the public service. The Ministry of Petroleum Resources, for instance, is currently housed at the NNPC Towers belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Resources.

 A Ministry of Power official dismissed the fear of interference, saying, “Where is their autonomy? The TCN is a government company.”

Ministries routinely ask parastatals and agencies they supervise to bear some expenses that should have been incidental on the parent ministries. Such expenses include overseas trips, conferences and purchase of operational vehicles.

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