The Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) has subtly threatened to disrupt the commencement of flight operations of the new national carrier, Nigeria Air, if the Federal Government refuses to pay the approved severance packages and entitlements of N45 billion for the defunct Nigeria Airways.
ATSSSAN also noted that at least 960 of the slightly above 6,000 staff of the airline, at liquidation, had died in pitiable circumstances since the airline was liquidated by fiat in 2004 by the Federal Government.
In a communiqué issued in Abuja at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting at the weekend, the association emphasised that without the payment of the severance packages, it could not guarantee a safety for the coming national carrier.
The communiqué, jointly signed by Ahmadu Ilitrus and Frances Akinjole, the President and Deputy General Secretary of ATSSAN, respectively, lamented that since the approval was made by President Muhammadu Buhari over a year ago, the government had not made efforts to ensure payment to beneficiaries.
The communiqué read in part: “NEC-in-session lamented the failure of the Federal Government to settle the outstanding entitlements of ex-workers of Nigeria Airways several years after the airline was liquidated. The NEC appreciated the selfless efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari, who finally gave approval for the payment of N45bn towards the settlement of the entitlements sometime last year, yet condemns the non-payment as at date.
“The NEC resolved that the issue of payment of the severance benefits of ex-Nigeria Airways workers must be resolved immediately in order to forestall brewing labour issues that could affect, in the negative, the prospects of the recently unveiled ‘Nigeria Air’ by the Federal Government of Nigeria. ATSSSAN NEC warned that if government does not pay Nigeria Airways workers their hard earned entitlements, it will not guarantee any place for the new airline in the industry.
“The NEC commiserates with the families of the over 960 Nigeria Airways workers who died in very avoidable health conditions while waiting for their entitlement, and wish the souls of the departed workers a peaceful rest and the family they left behind the [fortitude] to carry on the struggle.”
On the brewing concession, the union insisted that surrendering the mainstay of airports in Nigeria would adversely affect the others.
The Federal Government, through the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had insisted that there was no going back on the concessioning of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos; Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Port Harcourt and the Aminu Kano Airport, Kano, operated by FAAN.