Power firms holding Nigerians hostage, says Esele

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…As Zimbabwe to cut government jobs in savings drive***

A former President of the Trade Union Congress, Mr Peter Esele, has accused the electricity generation and distribution companies of failing to fulfil their side of the deal for the privatisation of Nigeria’s power sector.

Esele explained that against established timelines in the privatisation agreement, the Gencos and Discos had failed to guarantee a steady power sector.

Speaking with journalists in Benin, Edo State on Thursday, the former labour leader noted that the Federal Government had placed itself in a difficult situation when it privatised the power sector in 2013.

He explained, “I was the TUC president then when we had the discussion about power. Between (former) President Goodluck Jonathan’s government and President Muhammadu Buhari’s government; these so-called Gencos and Discos have collected over N1tn.

“How can we be giving money to privatise an entity? What they have done is blackmailing the government, as they borrowed so much money from the banks. So, if the government does not make money available to them, they will not pay the banks and the banks may go under.

“They do not share their profit with us. When profit comes, they pocket it. But you and I will carry their liability.”

He added, “When you carry out privatisation, there are timelines. There are agreements. Are they meeting the timelines? No. The Discos declared force majeure in the North-East, so they are not responsible for anything.

“But in other areas, if you do not meet the timelines, then you have violated the terms of the contract and the asset can be resold. I was part of the negotiating team.”

In the meantime, cash-strapped Zimbabwe will cut public sector jobs to help stem ballooning expenditure, the country’s finance minister said Friday.

Recently-appointed Mthuli Ncube said job cuts were among austerity measures needed to revive the moribund economy as the southern African country reels under a debt of $16.9 billion.

“We are going to do that (job cuts),” Ncube told journalists at a news conference while presenting a two-year fiscal policy plan titled “transitional stabilisation programme”.

“Trying to restructure your workforce is never easy. It’s painful, it’s emotional and can be a traumatic process but still necessary,” he said.

Ncube said the government, which has a workforce of more than 300,000, will target jobs held by workers due for retirement and “those who are not correctly positioned in their positions”, but he gave no figures.

He warned that the country’s fiscal deficit for the first half of the year, which stands at $1.4 billion, will top $2.7 billion by the end of 2018 if not controlled.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was elected in a disputed election in July, has vowed to revive the economy.

The incoming administration denounced corruption, botched land reforms and government policies that saw investors flee under former president Robert Mugabe, who ruled for nearly 30 years.

Earlier this week, Ncube forecast that Zimbabwe’s economy would grow by 6.3 percent this year, driven mainly by agriculture and mining in a bid to boost growth after the fall of Mugabe.

The minister pledged to implement key reforms to cut expenditure, improve income, tackle corruption and privatise some state enterprises to turn Zimbabwe into a middle-income economy by 2030.

In recent weeks, the country has been running out of essential medical drugs and supplies of fuel have dwindled because importers are unable to secure foreign currency to replenish stocks.

Punch with additional report from AFP