Pensioners of defunct Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL) on Tuesday held finance minister Zainab Ahmed and the Permanent Secretaries hostage over the non-payment of their entitlements.
The aggrieved former NAL workers said they were asked to come to the ministry for verification and eventual payment of their retirement benefits being handled by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) domiciled in the ministry of finance.
Many of them said they arrived at the ministry from all over the country and outside for the exercise on Sunday and as Tuesday nobody had come to attend to them from the ministry.
Speaking to journalists on why they had to block the gate and prevent the finance minister and others from leaving the premises, Comrade Sam Nzene told reporters that they missed out on the first tranche of payment “although no fault of the government” but they asked to come back for data capturing to enable government pay them.
He lamented that “no arrangement have been made for our verification so far”. He added that they contacted the consultant handling the disbursement of the entitlements known as Jubril on Monday but “he refused to come because he has neither been paid nor his contract regularized.”
However after waiting from Sunday to Tuesday without anybody answering them, the aggrieved pensioners at 4:30pm barricaded the Ahmadu Bello Way entrance of the ministry thus preventing the Minister and others from driving out of the premises.
The Executive Secretary of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) intervened to calm the angry NAL workers to no avail, having failed to calm them down she left. Also caught in the blockade were the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly matters Senator Ita Enang, the Commissioner for Insurance Mohammed Kari, the Director General of the Debt Management Office (DMO) and others who trooped out and were watching the protesters.
Around 6:45pm Comrade Sam Nzene directed the protesters to proceed to the auditorium that the government has agreed to carry out the verification right away. However, the protesters divided themselves into two groups some proceeded to the auditorium others stayed back to sustain the pressure.
The Federal Government on Monday, 15th October 2018 commence the final verification and payment of N22.6 billion entitlements to all former staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways the long awaited payment exercise was to last for one week and hold simultaneously in the three regional hubs of Lagos, Kano and Enugu.
The “beneficiaries are expected to come along with the following documents to the centres: Letter of Appointment, Letter of Confirmation, Letter of Last Promotion, Letter of Retirement, NAL Identity Card, Other Means of Identification (National ID Card, International Passport, Driver’s License, etc), Particulars of Bank Account: A cheque slip or statement of Bank Account, Letter of Administration to be presented by Next-of-Kin (NOKs) in the case of deceased beneficiaries. Beneficiaries will be subjected to biometric Data Capture; and hence notice will be placed at the venue and specific date for capturing of each beneficiary will be indicated.”
It would be recalled that the federal government had approved N22.68 billion for the ex-workers of the defunct national carrier.
Speaking in Abuja during her maiden meeting with the ex-workers of Nigeria Airways after resumption as Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed said: “some pending fiscal issues in the aviation and education sectors were immediately brought to my attention. I took it as a challenge to quickly address key issues regarding the settlement of existing claims in both of these sectors. Consequent upon this, I am happy to inform you that Mr. President has graciously approved the sum of N22.68 billion and N20 billion to aviation and education sectors respectively,” she said.
President Muhammadu Buhari approved the release of N42.68 billion for workers in the aviation and education sectors. N22.68 billion was for the settlement of outstanding retirement benefits due to the ex-workers of the Nigeria Airways while the balance N20 billion is for the immediate release to public universities for their revitalization schemes.
Zainab Ahmed noted that the initial submission regarding the retirement benefits of ex-workers of Nigeria Airways limited in liquidation was N78 billion.
This amount she said “was verified by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) and other relevant stakeholders in line with the conditions of service of Nigeria Airways and other extant rules and regulations, at the end of the verification, the sum of N45 billion was agreed as the total retirement benefits of the affected staff.”
by Nduka Chiejina