Troubled Nigerian carrier Med-View Airline owes sacked and existing workers at least N1billion in salary arrears, pension and other entitlements, investigation by Sahara Reporters have revealed.
Apart from the unpaid salaries and pension to workers, the airline is also massively indebted to the tune of N2billlion to categories of suppliers, including fuellers, Global Distribution Systems, caterers and bureau de change operators.
Besides, it was gathered that the airline owes at least £2million as tax to Her Royal Majesty (HRM tax) in London, which compelled it to suspend its Lagos-London route in January 2018.
Our correspondent learnt that in 2018 alone, no fewer than 150 workers, representing about 50 per cent of the total workforce of the carrier, had either been sacked or had resigned their appointments with the airline.
This year, Med-View has laid off 110 workers — 60 in January and another 50 in September — while the other 40 had resigned voluntarily due to non-payment of salaries, non-remittance of pension and corporative society funds, which were duly deducted monthly.
Investigation revealed that the last remitted pensions and Pay as You Earn (PAYE) deducted from staff was in January 2015, but the management had continually deducted the sums without remitting to the appropriate agencies.
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that most staff of the airline, including the sacked workers, are owed several months of salaries and gratuities without the plan to pay back, as the airline at the moment only operates one Boeing 737-500 aircraft to Abuja from its base in Lagos.
Investigations further revealed that the airline, which,as of December 2017 was operating to London, Dubai, Jeddah and West Coast with at least five aircraft in its fleet, only carries out one operation to Abuja daily under strict supervision from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation (NCAR) stipulates minimum of two aircraft for operations, which the airline has violated.
Besides, the leased B777-200 aircraft with which the airline prosecuted 2018 hajj to Saudi Arabia is parked at the apron side of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
At present, some of the staff of the airline are owed between nine and 11 months of salaries by the management.
A source close to the airline told our correspondent that the average salary bill of Med-View is N80 million per month, but most of the staff, including the sacked ones, are yet to be paid their wages.
One of the sacked staff, who asked not to be named, accused the Managing Director of the airline, Mr. Muniru Bankole, of financial recklessness and mismanagement, stressing that he had relocated his entire family out of the country since March this year when the economic crunch began to bite hard.
The source alleged that Bankole himself had been out of the country in the past three months under the guise of seeking investors for the airline.
According to the staff, revenues generated from the sole operations to Abuja from Lagos are being diverted into a different account by Bankole, which he said further compounded the woes of the workers.
The source added: “After several months of accumulated unpaid salary, instead of the management of the airline to be courteous enough by appealing to staff for patience, or even explain intelligent steps being taken to alleviate the problem, several staff were rather slammed with "service no longer required". To be modest, the average amount of unpaid salary owed each of the sacked staff is about N2million, which aggregates to about N300million.
“While foreign station staff are owed between nine and 12 months, it is about eight months for their Nigerian colleagues. The statutory deductions from staff salary, i.e. pension deductions, and Pay as You Earn (PAYE), are not remitted to the requisite agencies and authorities. The last remittance to the various pension managers was in January 2015.
“This is to say that from February 2015 to date, the airline has not released the amount deducted as pension contributions of staff to their respective pension managers. Further to this, the voluntary staff corporative deductions from staff members of the corporative society are never remitted to the society’s account by the management of Med-View Airline.”
The sacked workers further accused the management of contravening the extant labour law of the country by laying them off without notice, stressing that the company was expected to pay the sacked staff a month salary in-lieu of notice.
“Individual and collective efforts made at requesting for the payments were rebuffed by the company. Instead of proffering explanations and plans to pay the debt, the company would rather deploy armed policemen to man her gates and premises, just to intimidate and harass anyone that comes in respect of the debts.
“Bankole keeps misinforming every well-meaning Nigerian that cares to ask him about the unpaid salary of staff, and the unending sacks. His explanation is that the sacked staff on their own chose to jump the boat as they realised the present hard situations of the business."
A Med-View Airline officiaal who asked not to be named confirmed the developments to our correspondent but said plans were underway to pay the backlog of salaries to the workers, including the sacked workers.
He said the management would acquire at least one aircraft before the second week of December 2018, and that the NCAA had been notified of the plans of the airline to deploy another aircraft for local operation.
However, Bankole could not be reached for comments, as he is presently out of the country.