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Nigeria Airways Workers Face Severance Payment Delay

Former workers of the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways, who hope to receive their severance packages from the organization may have to wait for a longer time as two government agencies are currently in disagreement over administrative charges to the disengaged workers.

Saharareporters gathered from a document that the Inter-Ministerial Committee which recommended the payment of N78billlion to the over 6,000 staff of the liquidated carrier also recommended one percent administrative charges, totaling N735million to any government agency that would disburse the funds to the workers.

The committee had suggested that the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation should disburse the severance packages to the workers after which a department in the Ministry of Finance, Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), suddenly indicated interest in the funds' disbursement.

PICA was established as a department in the finance ministry by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 to verify all payments of funds by the government to any agency or organization.

But PICA, which reduced the total severance packages to N43billion from N78 \billion, had jerked up its administrative charges to N2.1bn without recourse to the one percent recommended by the inter-ministerial committee.

A source close to the Presidency told our correspondent that the administrative charges had resulted in fierce disagreement between both government agencies and might not be resolved soon.

The document revealed the breakdown of the N78billion to include serving staff (N20.9billion), presidential fleet (N1.4billion), Skypower Aviation Handling Limited (SAHCOL) (N4billion), retired staff from SAHCOL (N207.7million), properties (N1billion and catering (N1.1billion).

Others are pensioners (N37.3million), deferred pensioners (N920.5million), 1988 group (N6.4billion), 1 percent administrative charges (N735million), 1 percent markup contingencies (N735million), salary of four retained staff working on the benefits for 12 months (N10.5million), office running cost at N100,000 monthly for 12 months (N1.2million) and supplementary (N3billion).

The document also revealed that the inter-ministerial committee had recommended N78 billion as the total severance packages for 10 years for the workers, including pension arrears for the period, after the physical verification of the beneficiaries.

Saharareporters also gathered that the workers had initially insisted on another 20 years payment of the severance packages as agreed with the Federal Government in 2009, before the payment of five years severance packages approved for them by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2010.

Curiously, however, PICA had in its recommendation to the Buhari government slashed the sum to N43 billion and expunged the 10 years pension arrears as agreed with the former workers and their unions by the inter-ministerial committee, even as it still went ahead to increase the administrative charges.

A Presidency source who pleaded anonymity expressed dismay on how PICA arrived at the N2.1 billion administrative charges after reducing the total sum due the workers to N43 billion, representing 45 percent reduction.

“PICA is the only body that is standing between the payment of the final severance packages to us and the government. President Buhari has agreed to pay the total sum to us until everything was taken to PICA for final verification,” the source said.

In what appeared as a veiled threat, however, the source also said: “If the government thinks it can come up with a national carrier without first settling our severance packages, I think that will be practically impossible.

“Several bodies are ready to take the government to court even outside the country. I can assure you that anywhere their aircraft flies into, such aircraft would be impounded until all debts are settled. Several of the affected workers in Europe and other African countries are already in court to ensure their payments. But PICA is not helping matters and may even worsen the case for interested investors.”

Saharareporters had exclusively reported about two weeks ago on how PICA unilaterally reduced the total sum to be paid to the former Nigeria Airways workers to N43bn from the recommended N78bn as well as the insistence of the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, that the agreed sum of N78billion must be paid.