by Akintomiwa Agbaje
Hundreds of workers, of the now defunt Nigeria Airways, protested yesterday at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, threatening to mar the launch of a new national carrier, Nigerian Eagle, as proposed by the Federal Government.
They promised to continue their protest until their N70billion severance benefits were fully paid.
The workers lamented that they were only paid five years benefits in 2007 out of the 25 years pay off that was recommended by the inter ministerial report to the government.
The ex-Nigeria Airways staff, who protested peacefully at the airport, chanted solidarity songs and displayed placards with inscriptions such “A labourer deserves his wages,” “Pay us our 20 years benefits,” among others.
They claimed other ex-workers of Nigeria Airways in London, USA, Italy and other parts of the world were fully paid 25 years severance benefits, arguing that all they wanted at the moment was for the government to pay them the remaining 20 years.
Speaking, an ex-worker of Nigeria Airways, Mr. Austin Njoku said: “You are aware that since they liquidated Nigeria Airways after telling us lies, they decided to pay a fraction of what government had computed for us, but they paid the foreign based workers their 25 years severance package fully.”
“It has been six years since we were paid the five years benefit, all we are asking for is for the government to pay us the outstanding 20 years or else we will ground the aviation industry.”
Lending his voice, Chairman of both the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, and Aviation Union Grand Alliance, AUGA, in Nigeria Airways, Ibrahim Husseni said he was surprised by the way the government was treating the former workers.
According to him: “Is it because we are blacks, you pay the ex- Nigeria Always workers living in London, USA, Italy and other parts of the world, yet they only paid us five years out of 25 years severance package, you know that is not right.
“Since they are changing to a new pension scheme, all we are saying is that they should pay us off.,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, denied the report that it has suspended the proposal to make Eagle Airline the national carrier, saying it has no such report before it.
Chairman Senate Committee on Aviation, Hope Uzodinma, Imo West while speaking with newsmen in Abuja, said his committee was not aware of such a proposal.
Senator Uzodinma who said the matter had not been brought before the aviation committee, pointed out that the issue would be dealt with if it was eventually brought before the committee.
He, however, said it was possible that some lawmakers may have had individually spoken with some newsmen on the proposed national carrier.
“It is not before us and whosoever speaks on it did that as an individual; not as a position of the committee which I chair”, he said.