Four years after, Nicon Airways workers want N1 b ruling implemented

  • Allege Ibrahim evading justice
  • Death toll of former workers rises
 Four years after ex-workers of the defunct NICON Airways owned by the controversial businessman, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim got judgment of N1 billion in their favour on the payment of their entitlements; the staff of the airline cried out over their unpaid benefits as ordered by the court.
The former workers are accusing the former promoter of the airline, Jimoh Ibrahim of evading justice despite the judgement of the National Industrial Court of Abuja against him.
National Industry Court sitting in Abuja had awarded the workers numbering over 250 about N1 billion as unpaid salaries and allowances, coupled with the abrupt closure of the airline, which he acquired from the former Kogi State Governor, Capt. Idris Wada in 2007.
The leadership of the workers also accused Wada of “wickedness” and “abandonment” since the case began in court, stressing that he sold the airline to Ibrahim without the knowledge of any of the directors of the airline.
A 21-page court judgment by Justice M.N. Esowe and made available to reporters had awarded the damages to the workers on September 16, 2013, but till date, Jimoh Ibrahim was yet to honour the judgment.
Rather, Ibrahim filed an appeal against the judgement, but was equally struck out on May 23, this year by Justice E.N. Agbakoba.
Justice Esowe had ordered Ibrahim to pay outstanding arrears of leave allowances, crew allowances overseas unpaid allowances in United States dollars and cumulative unremitted cooperative by the staff between May 2007 to April 2011 to the staff, all totalling over N1 billion.
The judgment, SUIT NO.NICN/LA/192/2011 and made available to our correspondent, had identified Mr. Henry Iwelunmo, Mr. Lukman Kolawolem Mr. George Omoniyi and Mrs. Eunice Odey as plaintiffs while NICON Airways, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim and Capt. Idris Ichalla Wada as the defendants.
Justice Esowe in his judgment accused Ibrahim and Wada of abandoning the employment of the 1stdefendant and carting away all the proper assets of the defendant without any communication and discussion with the plaintiffs on their contracts of employment and subsisting entitlements from the 1stdefendant.
The justice described this action as “fraudulent and improper conduct, which was capable of rendering the 2nd and 3rd defendants personally liable to the plaintiffs.”
A breakdown of the payments indicated that NICON Airways owned by Ibrahim was supposed to pay the total sum of N16.4 million as pension funds to the workers, N8.1 million as the cumulative contributions to the Nigeria Social and Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), which was deducted, but unremitted by Ibrahim from the workers’ salaries and entitlements between the period and payment of N808.7 million as the aggregate arrears of the workers’ salaries for the period.
Others are: “An order of this honourable court mandating the defendants and their directors to pay the sum of to pay the sum of N4.02, 857 million to the plaintiffs forthwith being the aggregate arrears of the plaintiffs’ leave allowance since the months of May 2007 to April 2011 and others that will become due and payable to the plaintiffs during the pendency and final determination of this suit.
“An order of this honourable court mandating the defendants and their directors to pay the sum of N3,380,500 only to the plaintiffs forthwith being the aggregate arrears of the plaintiffs crew/flight allowance for the months of May 2007 to April, 2011.”
The female justice also awarded the sum of $41,750 to the workers being the aggregate arrears of their overseas allowance, another N16.4 million as pension contribution funds deducted from their salaries, but not remitted to the workers, N2.4 million as the cumulative contributions of the workers to cooperative society, N16.4 million deducted as pension contributions, but not remitted by Jimoh Ibrahim and 21 per cent interest on the entire sum from May 2007 till 2011 and another 10 per cent per annum until final liquidation of the entire judgment sum among several other damages awarded to the workers.
Jimoh Ibrahim was also ordered to pay the sum of N20 million as the plaintiffs’ solicitors’ fee and expenses.
But, it was gathered that rather for Ibrahim to obey the court orders; he delayed his appeal on the matter for another two years till 2015.
One of the affected workers, Mr. Charles Nwafor told our reporter that no fewer than 20 of the staff had died due to lack of resources to attend to some urgent medical attention.
Nwafor specifically mentioned the recent death of one Mr. Moshood Abdul who died at Gbagada General because he could not raise the sum of N100,000 for medical expenses. Abdul he said had four children and was in squalor before he died.
He said: “Jimoh Ibrahim filed for an appeal against the National Industrial Court judgment, but was struck out again on May 23, 2017, but he refused to obey the judgment. Since the judgment was delivered, we have not been able to serve Ibrahim the judgment. He’s in fact, evading judgements and has even vowed not to obey it.
“Our members are dying one after the other, but Ibrahim is junketing all over the world, could you imagine that someone who put all life into the company died because we even his co-workers in the airline could not raise the sum of N100,000 for his medical bills? That has been the situation with us since Ibrahim decided to deal with us this way.”
Besides, during the case at the National Industrial Court, Wada through his lawyer said he could not be joined together with Ibrahim because of his immunity as the serving governor of Kogi State then.
But, now that he has finished his four years term, a source close to one of the affected workers said that plans have reached an advanced stage to join him with the case.
Ibrahim could not be reached for comments on the issue as he did not respond to his calls. 
Wole Shadare