Airways Pensioners restive ahead of verification, payment

Matthew Otoijagha

After years of waiting for the payment of their terminal benefits, with many dying prematurely during the protracted agitation for their entitlements to be paid, former workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways have become   restive ahead of the scheduled verification and payment of their benefits.

As gathered, the verification and payment are expected to hold throughout next week beginning from Monday, October 15, to Sunday, October 21 in Lagos, Enugu and Kano states.

Those who are unable to visit any of these three centres for verification and payment will have to go to Abuja for their exercise and payment. One of the pensioners, who spoke  ahead of the verification and payment, lamented that many of the pensioners might not be able to provide the three major requirements, especially letter of employment.

According to him, “It is possible for people to get letter of disengagement and means of identification which could be International passport, driver’s license, voter’s card or national identity card.  This has been causing anxiety among us because many have relocated to their villages or places of residence when they were on employment. It is possible that many may have misplaced their letter of employment. This is a potential issue. We will see how this will be addressed.”

The lingering issue of unpaid benefits to retirees and staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways have attracted the attention of many organizations including organized Labour. Recently, members of the National Executive Council, NEC, of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, did not take it lightly at their recent meeting.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the NEC meeting by NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said: “The NEC observed the non-payment of the terminal benefits and entitlements of the staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways. This is in spite of the approval by the Federal Government that the terminal benefits of staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways should be set.

“The NEC also notes that many of the affected staff of the former Nigeria Airways have died out of frustration. The NEC calls on the Federal Government, as a matter of urgency, to settle all the liabilities owed staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways.”

Recall that the Federal Government had released N22.68 billion to settle part of the retirement benefits of former workers of Nigeria Airways. Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, made the disclosure in Abuja. Ahmed also said the ex-airways workers would be paid after verification and announced the setting up of a nine-member committee to verify the claims of the ex-workers, declaring that the money approved was 50 percent of their N45 billion benefits.

According to her, “As you are aware, the ex-workers of Nigeria Airways Limited in liquidation were not paid their retirement benefits for the past 15 years, despite the liquidation. As a result of the delays in settlement of these benefits, many ex-workers have been thrown out of their houses, their children have been unable to attend school, and others have lost their businesses, fallen ill or indeed, passed on.

This unfortunate situation cannot be allowed to continue under a responsible administration. “It is on this basis that Mr. President has approved the immediate release of N22.68 billion being 50 per cent of N45.3 billion total entitlements of the ex-workers of the Nigeria Airways Limited in liquidation.”

Ahmed said that the committee is headed by Mohammed Dikwa, Director of Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit. Other members would be drawn from the office of the Head of Service, ministries of Aviation and Finance, Bureau of Public Enterprises, Accountant-General office, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, the ex-workers union, and the budget office.

“The committee is mandated to physically verify the claims of pensioners and relevant next-of-kin before the release of funds to the approved beneficiaries,” she said.

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