By Victor Ahiuma-Young
FORMER workers of Nigerian Airways have petitioned the President of Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, pleading with him to intervene and quicken the release of N45billion approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for the payment of their entitlements.
The ex-staff petitioned the Senate President after they were informed that the N45billion would not be released for the payment of their benefits because it was no appropriated for.
Chairman of Nigeria Airways branch of the National Union of Pensioners, NUP, Sam Nzene, told Pension and You, that they were told during a meeting with officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance in Abuja, after a protest over the non- release of the money, that only the approval by the National Assembly could fast track the release of the money.
Nzene who blamed the officials of the Finance Ministry for not following up the issue after the approval of the Federal Executive Council, NEC, begged the National Assembly, especially the Senate to save the pensioners from further untimely deaths.
According to him, “ many of our members are suffering from terminal sicknesses, many have died for lack of money to take care of their medical needs and many others have become destitute. We are begging the Senate President to quickly intervene and do the needful for the money to be released to save the situation.
“In fact, it was during our protest on December 19, 2017, where we shut down the Federal Ministry of Finance and prevented people from going in and coming out that officials of the Ministry told us at a meeting that only the Senate can quicken the release of the money because it was not appropriated for.
“We have since written to the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, urging him to do the needful. We want to use this medium to once again plead with him to help fast track the release of the money to save us from this hardship, suffering, deaths and destitution we have been subjected to because we worked for Nigerian Airways.”
The frustrated pensioners who had heaved a sigh of following FEC’s approval of N48 billion for the payment of their benefits, by the Federal Government are now leaving in despair and expressed fears that many of them still alive may not receive their entitlements before they join their ancestors.
Many of the former workers of the defunct national carrier who had earlier spoken to Pension and You, lamented that it had been frustrating and painful to them especially after their hope had been raised that they would soon be paid following the approval for such in September.
One of them, a woman with tears in her eyes declared “it has been suicide and suicide everywhere. No succour . It seems PICA and co are praying for all of us to die of subtle suicide in order for them not to pay our pensions.
“Only personal intervention by President Muhammadu Buhari, can stop our sufferings and save those of us still alive from joining our departed colleagues untimely.”
7 die in one week
Last year, it was disclosed that about seven of the former employees had died in one week as they continue to await the release of the N45 billion approved by the federal government for the payment of their entitlements.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Airways Elders Forum, Godwin Jibodu, while speaking with journalists in Lagos, lamented that “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 payment of our pensions and gratuities.
Mr. Jibodu named the dead former Airways workers as Capt. Asuquo, Capt. Akintaju, M. K. Amah, Bose Oladumiye, Onyebuchi Anunobi, Adebayo Awoyinka, T. Bellgam and Ebenezer Akinbode.
He added that another former worker of the defunct airline, Charles Ntanyi, had been missing since August last year after boarding a commercial bus at night in Ogba, Lagos.
Mr. Jibodu lamented that the pensioners were wallowing in abject poverty after serving the nation meritoriously at the Nigeria Airways.
His words: “We are appealing to Nigeria as a nation not to forget the contributions of Nigeria Airways to national development.”
Nigeria Airways was a partner to the government and till date has helped in building the capacity of workers in the aviation sector, Mr. Jibodu said.
FG approves N45bn
It will be recalled that the federal government in September approved the payment of N45 billion severance package to former staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had disclosed this while speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting saying : “Governments, in the past, decided just to liquidate Nigeria Airways without tending to the issue of the entitlements of the workers and they have been struggling to get that paid. We came in and took it very seriously. I’m happy to announce that Mr. President has approved N45 billion which has been confirmed to be the entitlements of these workers and Ministry of Finance has been instructed to pay the money.
He explained that the ministry wrote to his office last week that they had received the instruction to pay the affected workers. They are setting up the modalities to pay, Mr. Sirika added. “You should know it won’t be paid through my ministry before somebody will say I took some of it. It will be paid through a process, and that process will commence very soon, he said.
The affected workers have been protesting over their unpaid entitlements since the liquidation of the airline by the federal government.
The national carrier was liquidated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
The ex-workers have not been paid their benefits 13 years after the liquidation of the Airways by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Until the N45billion 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.
However, close to three months after the N48billion approval which the pensioners accepted, payment is yet to be effected. The ex-workers of the defunct national carrier are worried over the delay and appealed to the President Buhari for intervention.