Former employees of Nigeria Airways have pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and order for the payment of their entitlements, 13 years after the liquidation of the Airways by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The aggrieved and frustrated pensioners have accused the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit, PICA, of frustrating efforts by the government to pay them their gratuities put at N78billion.
Recalling, the pensioners said: "In 2004,Obasanjo liquidated the Airline for reasons best known to him and indirectly handed everything Airways to Arik on a platter of gold but today, Arik is in the hands of AMCON because they failed to deliver.
That is a topic for another day. Today however, we are focusing on why the liquidated staff's entitlement is still hanging. For Airways staff in UK, USA, Dubai, etc where there are laws, they got their 25 years entitlement in 2004. Is it not strange that 13 years after, those in Nigeria and neighboring African countries are still fasting and praying for it to be paid.
Describing this as "wickedness of the highest order", the pensioner noted that they were thankful to God when few months back the payment was approved, but lamented that till today, they "are still praying God for the payment to be effected. Why? We gathered that there is a power tussle between the Aviation Ministry and PICA.
Why the tussle? The President, it was gathered agreed that 1% of the approved sum be given to the paying agency which is the wages commission. In our case the 1% is almost N800million.
Suddenly PICA picked interest in paying and also demanded for a reduction of the agreed amount and also demanded for over N2billion as the paying agency fee. It was gathered that the Ministry said no because PICA has no right to slash it since the federal government is not complaining that the N78billion is too much for it to pay.
"Our question is, why is it possible for PICA to hold a people to ransom? We do not want to believe that President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Minister of finance or their various special advisers are unaware of what is going on and have left the pensioners to die by the day from curable illnesses. They cannot feed, they are not employable, they cannot pay rents, school fees, etc. This is irritating.
"Former President, Goodluck Jonathan, we learned, persuaded our umbrella body to withdraw the case from court. The Union did, but President Jonathan refused to honour his part of the bargain by paying us our entitlements before he left office inspite of the prosperity during his regime. Whoever constitutes obstacle, the set time for such to be brought to book is now.
The staff are tired of hoping against hope. Month in, month out, their hopes are dashed. September is running out again. If this regime is truly transparent and against corruption, the time to prove it is now. Delay is dangerous. It is not the dead that will spend this money."