No fewer than 900 pensioners of the defunct Nigerian Airways, have died while waiting for payment of their terminal benefits.
Chairman of Nigerian Airways' branch of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP), Mr Sam Ezene, who disclosed this to Pension and You, lamented that one other Airways pensioner died in the morning of February 6, before the commencement of the pensioners' protest against unpaid N45 billion approved by the Federal Government to pay their severance benefits.
According to him: "Over 900 of our members have unfortunately died since the battle started. In fact, one person died in Lagos in the morning before we started the protest. The 900 we are talking about are those that were reported to us.
There were reports of two deaths on February 2. We are not talking about those in the villages that we do not have report on. So, it has been so bad. Most of them died for lack of money to take care of their health and other necessities."
7 die in one week
It will be recalled that in October 2017, it was disclosed that about seven of the former employees had died in one week as they continued to await the release of the N45 billion approved by the Federal Government for the payment of their entitlements.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Airways Elders Forum, Godwin Jibodu, while speaking with journalists in Lagos, lamented that they have lost seven colleagues within the last one week because they could not afford proper treatment for their ailments. "This is very sad because the government has approved N45 billion since June for payment of our pensions and gratuities."
Mr. Jibodu named the dead former Airways workers as Capt. Asuquo, Capt. Akintaju, M. K. Amah, Bose Oladumiye, Onyebuchi Anunobi, Adebayo Awoyinka, T. Bellgam and Ebenezer Akinbode.
According to him, another former worker of the defunct airline, Charles Ntanyi, had been missing since August this year after boarding a commercial bus at night in Ogba, Lagos. Mr. Jibodu lamented that the pensioners were wallowing in abject poverty after serving the nation meritoriously at the Nigeria Airways.
Block Lagos Airport road
Recall that on February 6, the pensioners blocked the Lagos Airport road for hours, protesting continued delay in the release of N45 billion approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, for the payment of their accumulated benefits.
The protest which started with a rally at the open field opposite the Skypower Catering Service premises at about 9.30am, caused unprecedented gridlock for hours on the airport road and its environs even after the protest ended. FEC had in September 2017 approved the payment of N45 billion that the ex-workers have been fighting for since former President Olusegun Obasanjo liquidated the national carrier in 2004. Displaying several placards with inscriptions such as "President Buhari, save us from Kemi Adeosun now," "Mrs Adeosun, your action and inaction are man's inhumanity to man," "Madam Minister of Finance, where is our pension and entitlements, pay us now," the aggrieved pensioners blamed the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun for the delay.
They chanted solidarity songs and demanded explanation from the minister on the cause of the delay in the payment. According to them, the N45 billion is out of the N78 billion pensions owed them by government.
Addressing the protesters, Mr Ezene appealed to President Muhammedu Buhari to direct Adeosun to release the pension entitlements. Ezene noted that the affected pensioners had earlier pleaded with the Ministry of Finance to release the N45 billion without response, saying "The Federal Executive Council in September 2017 approved the payment of N45 billion which was part of pension entitlements of the defunct Nigerian Airways workers.
In spite of our peaceful protests at the Ministry of Finance and the National Assembly in December, our entitlements have not been paid. Hopelessness and depression are killing our members and this is why we want the public to know that we are going through a lot of pains and anger."