By Chinedu Eze
Two retirees who were former staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL) yesterday slumped and died after waiting for long in the verification queue at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
The federal government gave approval for part payment of their severance emoluments of N22. 5 billion out of N45 billion, opened verification centres at different parts of the country where the retirees would process their documentation for payment.
But since it was opened on Monday by the President Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) department of the Ministry of Finance, the procedure has been characterised by hiccups and delays for the aged who found it extremely difficult to stand up for long.
It was under these circumstances that the two retirees whose names were kept away from the public by the families died, while another was carried to the centre on life support but was quickly attended to by the verification officials.
THISDAY gathered that the major cause of delay was the absence of the verification forms, which made it impossible for hundreds of retirees to be attended to by the officials.
The verification forms exhausted as early as 10:00 am yesterday and were not made available as at 1:00 pm.
No fewer than 3,000 retirees were slated to be verified at the Lagos centre by the officials of PICA.
However, as at yesterday out of that number, only 400 had been verified and through with data capturing.
On Monday, officials of PICA had said that at least 500 retirees would be verified and captured daily, but five days after the commencement of the exercise, about 400 had been processed.
A NAL retiree and the first black pilot on the continent, Capt. Julius Orimoloye, 87 who came for the verification, decried the sordid arrangement by PICA and disclosed that he was slated for Friday by the officials, but expressed disappointment with the handling of the exercise by the officials.
Orimoloye who spoke to newsmen at the verification centre, noted that the exercise was poorly handled by PICA officials in Lagos, stressing that the last exercise about 10 years ago was better handled than the current one.
“It has been very terrible, worse than before. We were here last in 2008 and the exercise was much better than this, but have we made progress? The answer is no. There are lots that should have been done, but things are now worse.
“I came here from Akure, Ondo State Capital today (Friday), but all I see is chaos. I can’t comment on a chaotic situation. I have not done anything. I was billed for Friday, which is today. The last exercise of 10 years ago, they billed me for Monday and I came down on a Monday, only to meet everybody else here.
“Those who were billed for Tuesday and Friday were entering the place before me, but despite the confusion then, I was attended to within three hours. Now, I have been here since 9:00 am, but nothing is happening.”
Also one of the retirees, Sheri Kyari, who worked in the engineering department of the airline before it was liquidated in 2004, said that he was yet to go through verification.
According to him, he was penciled down for Tuesday, but as at yesterday, he was yet to be attended to by the officials of the ministry.