By Chinedu Eze
The federal government has assured the former workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL) that they would get all their severance benefits, including the next of kin of the deceased.
This is after government had paid the initial 50 per cent of the total entitlement to the ex-staff of the national airline.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed made this known on Friday at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, when the former workers of the defunct national carrier organised a rally in support of President Muhammadu Buhari re-election in appreciation of the payment of part of the benefits to them by his administration.
The Minister of Information and Culture said not only the ex-NAL workers were remembered by the Buhari administration but also others workers in national agencies that had become defunct whose severance benefits were yet to be paid before the present administration took over the government.
This, he said, include ex-Biafra police officers and men, ex-workers of the Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) as well as workers of the Aladja Delta Steel Company.
The ex-workers of Nigeria Airways explained that they had to support the Buhari administration in order to appreciate his kind gesture and recalled they were precarious situation for 14 years until he became the President and decided to pay them.
According to Mohammed, it was sad that successive governments had ignored the plight of these people and reduced their dignity, leaving them in abject poverty.
“This administration’s commitment to the welfare and well-being of Nigerians led President Muhammadu Buhari to end the 14-year wait and suffering of 5,996 former staffers of Nigeria Airways, who have started receiving payments of their pension arrears and other benefits from government.
“It Is noteworthy that since liquidation of Nigeria Airways, successive administrations have failed to settle the ex-staffer, leading to untold suffering and loss of human dignity by affected people,” the minister said.
He also added, “It is not just former staffers of Nigeria Airways who have benefited from the people-oriented policy of this administration as former Biafran policemen, former workers of Aladja Delta Steel Company and former Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) workers have also seen their years of suffering and neglect come to an end; thanks to President Buhari.
“For over 800 deceased ex-staff of Nigeria Airways, their next of kin will also receive the entitlements due to them.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of ex-staff of the defunct national airline, Nigeria Airways traversed the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja resolving that they would support the President Muhammadu Buhari- led administration in the upcoming elections come what may; but stated that no member was being coerced to support the incumbent.
Co-ordinator of the Ex-pensioners’ rally and former President of Aviation Union’s Grand Alliance (AUGA), Lookman Animashuan said in an interview that the rally was a reactionary support for the humanitarian gesture of this administration, stating that people could say whatever they wanted but where was all other administrations when they wallowed in neglect and poverty.
Animashuan said, “We are not coercing anybody to join the rally; people are doing so of their free will. Nobody can stop anybody’s payment. People talking like that are myopic. Me, I can’t stop anyone’s payment, it’s already there and they have got 50 per cent and they are no more doing verification anyway so the moment the other one is ready it will be sent to their accounts and so it is not true that people are being forced.”
On those criticising their action, he said,” Those people talking so are wailers; they will never see anything good in anything. They should put themselves in our shoes and after 14 years if they haven’t been collecting salaries, if about 800 members and family members have died because of neglect they will not be talking the way they are talking.”