- Crisis stalls new national airline project
Worried by alleged face-off between the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika and Chairman, Presidential
Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), Dikwa over disbursement of N78b severance benefits, former workers of Nigeria Airways based in Accra, Ghana, Lome, Togo, Yaounde, Cameroon, Benin and Gabon have petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over their plight.
The workers, Emetule Fina (Gabon); Eno Mao (Gabon); Ndoke Hannah (Cameroon); Bareng John (Cameroon); Afandomi Raymond (Benin); and Mensah Teteh (Togo) in a petition made available to Woleshadare.net lauded Buhari for approving the payment of final entitlements of the ex-workers.
They however flayed the power tussle between Sirika and Dikwah as major cause for the delay, alleging that no agreement had been reached on who and what to pay.
They equally alleged that while the chairman of PICA is bent on reducing the N78b approved to N43b with N2b interest as the paying body, the Minister of State for Aviation insists on the payment of the full N78b with one per cent to the paying body, describing what is playing out as greed in interest is the reason for the delay to pay the suffering staff
They stated that it is against this backdrop that they are appealing for Buhari’s quick intervention to find a solution in what they described as power struggle for the Minister of Finance to release the funds in Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) since two years to the workers.
According to them,” We the west coast staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited from Libreville (Gabon) Douala (Cameroon) Cotonou (Benin) and Lome (Togo) are thanking and God for your healing and bringing you back to Nigeria to continue the good work you have for Nigeria, which other African countries may have to copy.”
“We wish to thank you for approving the payment of final entitlements of the ex-staff of the defunct airline. What a great joy it was for a long awaited exercise. Your Excellency, sadness is already clouding the joy due to the prolonged delay to execute the payments”.
President, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Muhammed Safianu said recently that the union would officially write Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to intervene in the matter and ensure that the final several packages of N78 billion was paid to the workers.
He confirmed that an inter-ministerial committee set up by the government to come out with the actual amount of money to be paid the workers, had come up with the N78 billion to over 6,000 staff of the liquidated carrier.
The committee, he added, also recommended 1 per cent administrative charges, totalling N735 million to any government agency that would disburse the funds to the ex-workers.
According to him, PICA, in its recommendation to the government, reduced the sum to N43 billion, but increased the administrative charges to N2.1 billion without any recourse to percentage as recommended by the inter-ministerial committee.
He said: “The final severance packages to the former workers was N78 billion and the inter-ministerial committee set up for that purpose recommended 1 per cent administrative charges to any government agency that will carry out the disbursement.
“But, all of a sudden, PICA showed interest in the payment and reduced the sum to N43 billion. It, however, increased its administrative charge to N2.1 billion.
What we want to do right now is to involve NLC. We want them to intervene in the whole matter so that people can get what they rightly deserved. In a matter of days, we will send our documents on the issue to NLC so that people can get what they rightly deserve.”
However, a source close to the Ministry of Transport has claimed that the power tussle between the Minister of State for Aviation, Sirika and the Chairman of PICA, Mr. Mohammed Kyari Dikwah, may be responsible for the delay in payment of the final severance packages to the former national carrier workers.
According to the source, Sirika, in a meeting with the former workers of the defunct national carrier earlier in the year, had promised that the beneficiaries would get their severance packages by last March, but regretted that the misunderstanding between the duo, is causing untold hardship on the workers who had lost at least 700 of their members since 2003 when the carrier was liquidated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The source alleged that the non-payment is stalling the commencement of a new national carrier for the country as promised by the government in 2015.