Hundreds of ex-staff of the defunct national airline, Nigeria Airways traversed the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, on Friday resolving that they would support the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in the forthcoming elections.
This rally held as plans had reached an advanced stage for the Nigerian government to pay the next of kin of the deceased ex-staff of the defunct national carrier.
In his remarks at the rally, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, said that just as those living among the ex-staff received their pensions and gratuities, the government was also making plans to ensure that the deceased workers received their entitlements through their next of kin.
Mohammed lamented that 15 years after the airline was wrongly liquidated, no government deemed it fit to pay the workers their entitlement. The workers organised a ‘thank you’ rally for Buhari for paying 50 per cent of their severance packages since the airline was liquidated in 2003 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The 50 per cent of the severance packages was N22.5billion, while the president said in September that the balance would be paid within six months.
No fewer than 800 ex-staff of the airline out of 5,996 beneficiaries had died in different circumstances in the past 15 years after liquidation.
Mohammed said other beneficiaries of the package included ex-Biafra policemen, ex-workers of the Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL), as well as workers of the Ajala Delta Steel Company.
He said: “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’s 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.
“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.”
Comrade Lookman Animashuan, co-ordinator of the rally and former President of the Aviation Unions Grand Alliance (AUGA), told journalists that the workers were not coerced to organise the rally for the president.
On those criticising their action, he said: “Those people saying 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.”
The ex-staff were joined by other unions in the industry such as the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE).