Vehicular movement from Skyway Catering Services to the entrance of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 in Lagos was disrupted today as retirees of the defunct Nigeria Airways staged a peaceful rally to demand the release of N45 billion approved by the federal government for the payment of their severance benefits.
The frail-looking workers who converged at the premises of Skyway Catering Services, the only surviving child of the defunct airline and walked down to the entrance of the local airport carried placards with various inscriptions denouncing the minister of finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun for “withholding the fruit of our labour.”
Some of the placards read: ‘Adeosun: Enough of the rigmarole, pay us Now’, Mrs. Adeosun: Your actions and inactions are man’s inhumanity to man’, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun: Do not delay this payment further; it is a crime against humanity’, ‘Kemi Adeosun, we demand immediate payment of our pensions’ etc.
Speaking during the protest, chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Nigeria Airways Branch, Mr. Sam Nzene alleged that the minister was playing politics with the money.
He said when the money was approved last year, the ministry said it was ready but that the national assembly was delaying payment.
However, he said findings showed that it was the ministry that was actually withholding the payment.
“This is the third protest we have done since last year. Even on the December 19 2017, there was a protest at the ministry of finance when we shut down the place for five hours and at the end of the day, we were called into a meeting and told that the national assembly was holding our payment. This is the seventh month after the federal executive council approved the payment.
“Well, we went to the national assembly; we wrote to the senate president, we were told that there was nothing of the Nigeria Airways in the national assembly, that they had approved the money government sent to them for settlement of debts owed to civil servants and pensioners and contractors, that the monies had been approved and released”.
In his speech, the president of Aviation Union Grand Alliance (AUGA) Mr. Luqmon Animashaun lamented that while contractors and army retirees were being paid, Nigeria Airways pensioners were yet to get their pay.
“They are paying the salary arrears of army pensioners and contractors. Where did they get the money to pay those two? They should let us know. We have combed everywhere in the national assembly; we have gone to the clerk, senate committee on aviation, appropriation…they said there was nothing like that and whatever they needed to approve, they had done and that is why they are paying the other two components. The minister should come out and tell us what the position is,” he said.
It would be recalled that in September 2017, the minister of state for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika announced the approval of N45 billion severance package for the Nigeria Airways workers.
Speaking in Abuja on Wednesday, September 20 after the weekly federal executive council meeting, Sirika said the minister of finance, Adeosun, had been instructed to put the machinery in place for payment of the workers.
“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. The ministry wrote…that they have received the instruction to pay these workers, and therefore, they are setting up the modalities to pay.
“You should know it won’t be paid through my ministry before somebody will say I take some of it. It will be paid by the ministry of finance through a process, and that process will commence very soon,’’ he said.