Outstanding Debt: Union Vows To Resist Nigeria Air’s Take-Off

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An aeroplane in the Nigeria Air fleet.

The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) has vowed to resist the take off of Nigeria Air, unless outstanding entitlements, totaling N45 billion were paid to workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways.
On July 18, the Federal Government unveiled the name and logo of a new national carrier, known as Nigeria Air at the Farnbourough Air Show in London.
The airline is scheduled to commence flight operations in December.
The General-Secretary of NUATE, Mr Olayinka Abioye, told newsmen that the union had set a July 31 deadline for government to pay the entitlements or face the consequences.
He said that the union had run out of patience with government’s inability to pay workers’ entitlements since the Nigeria Airways folded up 14 years ago.
Abioye said that NUATE would mobilise against government by the end of the month if the government failed to begin the disbursement of the money approved for the former airways workers by the Federal Executive Council more than 10 months ago.
He said that leaders of the union had met severally with the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, to deliberate on the plight of the former workers, “who served the country meritoriously before the airline was liquidated in September, 2004’’.
The unionist, however, lauded the minister for what he described as the minister’s efforts to facilitate the payment of the entitlements, alleging that the minister became frustrated after meeting a brick wall in the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“So, the blame cannot be solely placed on Sirika but as the minister in charge of the sector, the onus lies on him to harken to the cries of the oppressed.
“He should ensure that the workers are paid as he promised at our stakeholders meeting that immediately the National Assembly concludes with the document that they will be paid within the shortest possible time.
“So, we are giving the government till the end of this month, irrespective of what the National Assembly is doing, to begin these payments so that these ex-workers will be given a new lease of life.
“If nothing positively happens, the Nigerian government will know that these people who are currently hopeless also have people who can speak on their behalf.”
Abioye argued that inasmuch as it was commendable for the government to float a new national carrier, the government should settle its obligation to people who previously worked for their fatherland.
The NUATE chief said that over 2,000 of the former airways workers had since died in the course of waiting for the payment of their entitlements.