Over 2000 former workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways are uncertain and confused over the N74 billion severance allowances promised them by the Federal Government early this year.
They had expressed confidence and hope that the Minister of State of Aviation, Hadi Sirika’s pronouncement that government would look into the matter following the setting up of a committee to look into it raised their hope of speedy claims settlement.
But just last week, there were indications that the committee set up to address the issue had stopped meeting, jettisoning the payment, at least for now.
Sources learnt from a source close to the Ministry of Transportation that President Muhammadu Buhari had perfected plans to pay the ex-workers few weeks ago but the recommendation of the Presidential Initiative Committee stalled the final payment to the workers.
Sirika in a letter to Buhari on the issue warned that if the severance packages of the former workers and other liabilities were not settled, it would be difficult to re-establish a national carrier for the country again.
He observed that before the company was liquidated, there was no proper determination of the worth of the company in terms of income on realizable assets vis-à-vis the liabilities in form of entitlements of staff that would be affected and insisted that the workers must be paid in full as agreed.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government, during the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s regime, had paid the sum of N29.1 billion, representing five years’ pension to the ex-workers of the airline.
A total of N74 billion is required to offset the former workers bills and the leadership of the ex-workers are agitating for the payment of both the living and their dead colleagues.
It was, however, gathered that government has agreed to their demands and has made all necessary documentation to effect payment before March 2017.
The workers were last paid on five years’ calculation between 2007 and 2008, but they are agitating for 25 years pay. Since the liquidation, the ex-workers of the airline have been living in the trenches, fighting for payment of their entitlements. The airline has lost about 700 workers as a result of ailments, while those alive continued with the struggle to get paid.
According to the Secretary General of Association of Nigerian Aviation Professional (ANAP), Abdulrasaq Saidu, the payment of former Nigeria Airways workers has been long overdue.
It has got to the level when the money will not be relevant when they are paid. Saidu lamented that the proceeds from the sale of Nigeria Airways, till today, has not been declared to the public. Between three and four ex-workers of the airline die weekly as a result of hardship and inability to take adequate care of themselves due to lack of funds.
The workers have, on different occasions, asked the Federal Government to pay them after the liquidation of the airline, but the Obasanjo government refused to pay them while the late Presdent Musa Yar’ Adua’s administration paid them five years.
According to some of them, their agitations have defiled human solutions.
An aircraft engineer with the defunct carrier, Ayuba Kyari, said their demands were beyond human solutions and has decided to ask for God’s grace upon them. Kyari said about N70 billion was needed to settle all the workers of the defunct airline for the period of their 20 years pay off.
He explained that since the liquidation of NAL on May 21, 2003, the Federal Government had only paid the retirees five years pension arrears out of 25 years pension arrears. It would be recalled that former employees of the defunct airline, in Kano recently, called on eminent Nigerians to prevail on the Federal Government to pay their entitlements.
Alhaji Mohammed Adamu, National Vice Chairman, Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Airways Branch, made the call shortly after special prayers by the members for God’s intervention in their plight.
The prayer session was held at the former office of the airline on Bank Road in Kano metropolis. Adamu said the that call was necessary to save the former employees and their families from further frustration due to the non-payment of their entitlements over 20 years.
He appealed on the Sultan of Sokoto and the President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), to intervene in the matter. He also called on the Ministry of Aviation to honour its earlier pledge to off-set all outstanding entitlements of the former workers.