The Federal Government on has begun the processes expected to lead to the payment of N22.5bn to the former staff of the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways.
The payment comes 14 years after the airline was liquidated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and some of its assets sold to Arik Air at N950m.
At the Sky Catering Services on Monday, thousands of the ex-workers, most of who were in their 70s, showed up at the venue as early as 6am for an exercise that was scheduled to commence at 8am.
But the verification exercise could not start as scheduled due to interrupted power supply and faulty server, which the officials of the Ministry of Finance had hoped to use for their capturing. The verification and capturing eventually commenced at 12pm.
As expected, the delay in the commencement of the exercise affected the total number of beneficiaries to be processed by 50 per cent.
Instead of the 500 beneficiaries penciled down for verification and capturing, only 250 of them could be attended to by officials of the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), a department in the Ministry of Finance.
In all, the exercise is taking place simultaneously in Lagos, Kano and Enugu Zones.
At Lagos Airport, some of the former workers came in wheelchairs while some were partially blinded and had to be accompanied to the venue by their family members.
Some of the family members of the former workers who had since passed on were seen coming around with the documents of the late workers, and like others they had to go through the processes.
Speaking with SaharaReporters at the venue, one a staff member of the defunt airline, Engr. Franklyn Oseji, lamented the liquidation of the airline by the Federal Government. However, he commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Finance for the kick-starting the payment, even though 846 of them had died in various circumstances.
Oseji, who claimed to be an aeronautic engineer, appealed to the government to accelerate the balance payment, stressing that most of them had to travel to Lagos from various parts of the South-West and beyond for the exercise.
He said: “This payment is long overdue. We were expecting it immediately the airline was liquidated, but unfortunately that never happened. Out of over 6,000 workers, about 850 of us have died in pitiable circumstances.
“Having said that, we want to thank President Buhari for this exercise, which will eventually lead to our payment hopefully in the next one week or so. Someone liquidated the airline, but the last government did not do anything about the payment.”
Also, another former staff member, Mr. Charles Adejumoh, described the exercise as rigorous.
He said he had been at the venue since 7am, but as of 4pm, he had only been able to undergo verification while he was asked to return on Tuesday for capturing.
Adejimoh called on the government to simplify the process so that most of them could be verified and captured before the close of the exercise.
He lauded the government for the payment and urged it to pay the remaining balance by early next year as proposed.
The exercise is expected to end nationwide on October 22, while payment, which would be done electronically, would commence approximately two weeks after the exercise in Abuja.
It would be recalled that the Minister of Finance, Hajia Zaynab Ahmed, had announced a N22.5bn severance package to the workers, last onth, a figure that represents 50 per cent of the N45bn earlier approved as the total emolument of the ex-workers after an audit by PICA.
The inter-ministerial committee set up by the Federal Government had earlier approved N75bn as the final entitlement before PICA slashed the sum.
The approval came two years after the President approved N45bn, which was scheduled to be paid through promissory note of bond issuance but did not materialise.
The workers had staged many protests in Lagos and Abuja to demand the payment, consistently accusing former Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, of withholding the payment.