The confusion over the N45bn pension and severance package approved for retirees of the defunct Nigeria Airways still lingers amidst rising expectations by the pensioners.
Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had towards the end of last year further raised the expectation of the workers when he said at the end of a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that the money would be paid as a Christmas gift to the affected veterans but that did not happen.
The FEC had in September last year approved the payment of N45bn for the ex-workers who had reportedly lost 850 of the beneficiaries.
But frustration set in after three months and there was no green light about the date of payment.
The Minister of Aviation obtained the presidential approval of N45bn for the part settlement of approximately six years, instead of 10 years, pension arrears to the pensioners.
On the October 12, 2017, the aviation Minister conveyed the Presidential approval to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, for payment.
Thereafter, the Finance Minister directed PICA, a Presidential Initiative on Continuous Auditing created under the Finance Ministry to handle the payment appropriately.
Three months after the presidential approval, the workers have expressed frustration over the delay in the payment of the pensions. The delay then triggered series of peaceful rallies.
Worried over the delay, representatives of the workers under the auspices of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Nigeria Airways branch, protested to the Finance Ministry where the Permanent Secretary reportedly referred them to the Senate.
A source at the Senate meeting quoted Goje as saying, “We jointly reviewed the draft estimates in the proposed 2018 Budget (presented to NASS in November 2017 by Mr President) and discovered most sadly that there is nothing before the Senate or NASS in the 2018 budget estimates with respect to pension payment to Nigeria Airways Pensioners.”
With the development communicated to the workers, it therefore dawned on them that they would have to wait for a longer period to get their payment.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government had in July last year approved N2.7tr for payment of debts it owed federal contractors, pensioners, and civil servants’ promotion arrears.
It is believed that the N45bn approved for ex-Airways’ workers was to be paid from the bond issuance which, from all indications, has not yielded.
Daily Trust recalled that the last time the Nigeria Airways pensioners were paid was in 2010 with the payment approved by late President Umar Yar’Adua who directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to source for fund.
Worried by the prolonged delay, the ex-workers staged a protest in Lagos on Tuesday to express their displeasure over the development. The workers took over the domestic airport road even as two of them slumped during the protest.
A retiree, Comrade Andrew Iwalegwu said, “Remember in December, our colleagues in the northern zone, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau and Makurdi did a protest in Abuja. Then the Minister of Aviation said we would smile during Christmas. We never knew he wanted to give us a bitter leaf Christmas,” he said.