No less than seven former workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways died in the last one week while awaiting their severance package from the Federal Government.
The former employees of the Airways are now begging President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and order the immediate payment of their entitlements following the recent approval of N48 billion for the payment of their benefits.
Addressing newsmen in Lagos on Wednesday, Oct. 18, the Chairman, Elders Forum of Nigeria Airways, Mr. Godwin Jibodu disclosed that the pensioners died in abject poverty despite having served the nation well.
He listed names of the deceased persons as Capt. Asuquo, Capt. Akintaju, Capt. Tunde Akinyosade, Capt. Sam Ohioma, and Mr. K. C. Amah while Mr. T. Bellgam and Mr. Ebenezer Akinbode were down with a stroke.
Jibodu further disclosed that one of the ex-workers, Capt. Charles Ntanyi, has been missing since August after boarding a commercial bus at night in the Ogba area of Lagos.
“We have lost seven colleagues within the last one week because they could not afford proper treatment for their ailments. This is very sad because the government has approved N45 billion since June for the payment of our pensions and gratuities.
“We are appealing to Nigeria as a nation not to forget the contributions of the (defunct) Nigeria Airways to national development. Nigeria Airways till date has helped in building the capacity of workers in the aviation sector,” he said.
According to Jibodu, since the money was approved, the pensioners had been making enquiries at the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Aviation and the Central Bank of Nigeria to know the reason for the delay in the disbursement of the money. The ex-workers have not been paid their benefits 13 years after the liquidation of the Airways by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The Federal Government had earlier this year approved N45 billion for the payment of gratuities and other retirement benefits of former employees of defunct airline, out of N78 billion owed the workers.
Announcing the approval after a Federal Executive Council meeting, the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said the ministry had started to put modalities in place for the payment. The minister also regretted that some of the ex-workers had lost their lives in the process of waiting for the payment.
However, Jibodu laments that several weeks after the approval, the payment is yet to be effected as the ex-workers are still waiting. Until the approval, the frustrated pensioners had accused the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit, PICA, of frustrating efforts by the government to pay them their gratuities put at N78 billion.
Describing this as “wickedness of the highest order”, the pensioners noted that they were thankful to God when a few months back the payment was approved, but lamented the inability of the government to effect the promise.