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Weekly Trust - - News - Ab­dul­la­teef Aliyu, La­gos

The past 14 years have been tor­tu­ous for work­ers of the defunct na­tional car­rier, Nige­ria Air­ways. That was the time when the air­line was liq­ui­dated by the ad­min­is­tra­tion of then pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo.

Af­ter the liq­ui­da­tion, the work­ers have been in the trenches fight­ing for pay­ment of their sev­er­ance ben­e­fits. The last time their pen­sions were paid was dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of for­mer pres­i­dent, late Umaru Yar’Adua in 2008.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing the first tranche of the pay­ment, the work­ers made sev­eral en­treaties to the Good­luck Jonathan ad­min­is­tra­tion but to no avail.

When Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari came on board in 2015, the as­sur­ance to pay re­tirees of the Nige­ria Air­ways was part of his cam­paign prom­ises. How­ever this did not ma­te­ri­al­ize as early as they wished in the life of the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The pres­i­dent raised the hope of the ex-work­ers when he ap­proved N45bn af­ter an au­dit by the Pres­i­den­tial Ini­tia­tive on Con­tin­u­ous Au­dit (PICA), a de­part­ment in the Min­istry of Fi­nance.

Lit­tle did they know that the ap­proval would not ma­te­ri­al­ize as the money was to be paid from a prom­is­sory note, ac­cord­ing to for­mer Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, Mrs. Kemi Adeo­sun.

The work­ers at a time staged protests in La­gos and Abuja to press for the pay­ment. But a month ago, the gov­ern­ment put smiles in their faces when it ap­proved N22.5bn, be­ing 50 per cent of the to­tal N45bn ear­lier ap­proved by the pres­i­dent.

Like the pop­u­lar cliché that it is never late than never, the gov­ern­ment last Mon­day com­menced ver­i­fi­ca­tion of the ben­e­fi­cia­ries in La­gos, Kano and Enugu. The re­tirees, some of them on life sup­port and as­sisted to the venue, trooped to the three cen­tres while the next of kin of de­ceased ben­e­fi­cia­ries were ver­i­fied. Daily Trust learnt that 800 of the ben­e­fi­cia­ries have passed on in the midst of the strug­gle.

The first week of the ver­i­fi­ca­tion was nearly marred by tech­ni­cal glitches with many of the ben­e­fi­cia­ries un­able to par­take in the ex­er­cise.

But the tem­po­rary hitches had evap­o­rated even as those who have been cap­tured were said to have started re­ceiv­ing pay­ment alerts.

The Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, Ha­jia Zaynab Ahmed, had last week­end as­sured that those who had been duly ver­i­fied would start re­ceiv­ing the alerts this week and the prom­ise came to fruition.

To the Nige­ria Air­ways re­tirees, the pres­i­dent has writ­ten his name in gold by pay­ing part of their en­ti­tle­ments which his pre­de­ces­sors ex­cept Yar’Adua failed to do.

They are op­ti­mistic that the bal­ance would be paid in no dis­tant time as promised by the Min­is­ter of State for Avi­a­tion, Sen­a­tor Hadi Sirika.

When our cor­re­spon­dent vis­ited the Sky­way Ca­ter­ing Com­plex, venue of the ver­i­fi­ca­tion ex­er­cise at the Mur­tala Muhammed Air­port, La­gos, it had pro­gressed sig­nif­i­cantly with the ini­tial hitches ad­dressed.

Right at the venue, many of the re­tirees con­firmed that some of their col­leagues who had been ver­i­fied had started get­ting pay­ment alerts.

One of the ben­e­fi­cia­ries, Mr. Chucks Ag­baso, said, “I am very happy that af­ter wait­ing for a long time, we are now get­ting what is due to us. I am very happy, I’ve been pray­ing for this day to come and we thank God it is hap­pen­ing.”

Pres­i­dent, Avi­a­tion Union Grand Al­liance (AUGA), Engr. Look­man An­i­mashaun, com­mended Pres­i­dent Buhari for putting smiles on their faces when oth­ers prac­ti­cally ig­nored them.

“Yar’ Adua was about to com­plete the pay­ment when he died. Jonathan was sup­posed to be his deputy and he was there when all these pro­cesses were done, but he did noth­ing about it. We had been in touch with Buhari even be­fore he be­came pres­i­dent and he promised that when he be­came pres­i­dent, he would pay us and he has ful­filled his prom­ise.

“I think we should thank him (Buhari), then, thank Sen. Hadi Sirika, the Min­is­ter of Avi­a­tion for ini­ti­at­ing it. We met with him in the sec­ond week of his ap­point­ment as a min­is­ter and he promised to do some­thing and un­der one month, he pre­sented our case to the Fed­eral Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil (FEC) for ap­proval, which was done about a year ago.

“Then, to re­lease the money now be­came an is­sue with the for­mer Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, Mrs. Kemi Adeo­sun, but we thank God the new min­is­ter came in and within one week, she kept her prom­ise. And she has also promised us that the bal­ance would be paid within the next six months, but we know are we are sure that money would be paid in less than six months. This is not pol­i­tics, but the ob­vi­ous thing that some­body has done.”

Bene­dict Uwalaka

For­mer Nige­ria Air­ways staff dur­ing their screen­ing in La­gos on Oc­to­ber 15, 2018.

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