Since 2004 the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL) was liquidated by the federal government, the workers of the once one of Africa’s greatest carriers have clamoured for pay off, as the airline’s liquidation was a decision taken by Nigeria’s government. With the pay off, labour issues concerning the defunct airline would be permanently settled, but this was not to be 13 years after NAL went under.
THISDAY learnt that some years ago, the workers were given five years retirement payment after the liquidation but they rightly demanded for pay off, and after so many years of agitation, there seems to be hope that the ex-Nigeria Airways workers would get their pay. This was after several years the labour unions had cried themselves hoarse, obstructed aviation activities on behalf of the workers and risked their lives and their jobs. This was also after some of the ex-workers had died in penury and or lost their loved ones because they had no money to care for them.
THISDAY learnt on Tuesday that the corpse of one of the seasoned pilots of Nigeria Airways (name withheld) is still in the mortuary many months after his demise because the children of the deceased could not pay for the cost of the mortuary service and burial. He died poor and his body has continued to suffer deprivation occasioned by poverty.
But there seems to be hope, really. THISDAY learnt that when the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika was appointed, he sped up the process of the pay off for the ex-NAL workers. His efforts yielded fruit as N87 billion was earmarked for the settlement of the former workers, most of whom are now geriatric personalities with their good experiences a remote memory of distant past.
THISDAY investigation disclosed that the money was calculated and processed by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation. In the recommendation made after the money was budgeted, it was stated that the Accountant General should disburse the money with administrative fee of one percent of the total sum, which comes up to N735 million.
The calculations of the pay off that came up to N78 billion included 10 years arrears of pension and 10 years of advance payment, which would finally rest all labour issues concerning the defunct Nigeria Airways. But PICA removed 10 years arrears of pension, insisting that only N43 billion would be paid.
THISDAY spoke with two senior officials of the then Nigeria Airways Limited: Dr. Godwin Olu Jibodu, who was Director of Engineering and Dr. Steve Mahonwu who was Controller of Personnel Services. The workers have renewed their agitation, insisting that the 10 years arrears of pension which was removed by PICA should be restored and also the ex-workers are kicking against the collection of N2.1 billion as administrative fees.
Jibodu said the ex-workers were aware that the Presidential Initiative for the Continuous Audit was the one which audited the total package of the emolument of the ex-Nigerian Airways workers and had recommended N43 billion instead of the N78 billion. He noted that the office (PICA) said that the arrears of the pension should not be paid and explained that the N78 billion was made up of 10 years arrears of pension that was not paid since 2009. Then the 10 years of payment of pension, which means for life any worker of former Nigeria Airways would not ask anything from the federal government.
The workers are also kicking against PICA’s insistence that it would disburse the money and no more the office of the accountant general.
According to a well-worn cliché, when two elephants fight, the grasses suffer. The jostling between the office of the Accountant General of the Federation and PICA is delaying the pay off. Meanwhile, Sirika, who steered this to fruition, is insisting the ex-workers must be paid N78 billion. It is expected that government should expedite action on the pay off to before more ex- NAL workers are taken to their early grave.