Home Uncategorized 11 years on, defunct Nigeria Airways staffs suffer on

11 years on, defunct Nigeria Airways staffs suffer on

by adminV


The state of the members of staff of the
liquidated Nigeria Airways has gone from critical to catastrophic, Victor
Ogunyinka recently attended their annual meeting and reports on their
devastating conditions after 10 years without their entitlements.
“My son, please give me 100 naira for transport, I don’t
have transport fare home,” the woman in her 70s said. Just as I was thinking of
giving her the money, another grey haired man responded: “he is not one of us
o, he is a journalist.” She responded: “sorry my son, I didn’t know, you are
not one of us, this is how we have been suffering since the government has
refused to pay our pension.”
Earlier in life, children take pride in nursing their future
ambition after things that direct or indirectly inspire them. Among other
professions, the sight of monstrous Boeing airplanes, roaring from far above
makes piloting a noble profession for many but in recent years, the sound of
airplanes has nothing to do with aspiration and envy for the profession
instead, one takes cover as it might end up being a case of another nose diving
monster into oblivion.
Since 2002, Nigeria has been left without a national carrier
in the aviation sector that automatically paved the way for influx of private
participation which has no doubt ushered in developments in the aviation sector.
But for all its worth, for about 11 years and counting, the staff of the
defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways, have gone from being proud civil
servants and patriotic countrymen to bunch of clueless aging and dying
pensioners.
The news of another colleague passing on to the world beyond
seems like an everyday affair and while they wallow in penury and untold
hardship due to their unpaid gratuities and entitlements, the surviving ones
are battling with different ailments instead of enjoying the fruits of their
years after service.
A part in the first stanza of the national anthem says ‘the
labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain…’ what is undefined however is
the question of who our heroes are. Whatever yardstick is used to measure that,
those that comfortably lifted us into thousands of kilometers to the sky and back
safely would definitely pass for heroes anytime.

On the last day of October, during the monthly meeting of
the union, at Ikeja, Lagos State, the members present observed a minute silence
for the union’s General Secretary, Uche Okeke who passed on a week before, that
is one out of over 600 that have died untimely due to one disease or the other.
While addressing his colleagues, Ibrahim Useni, national
chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Airways branch
bemoaned the slow pace the government is operating on the issue.
Furthermore, while speaking to Nigerian Tribune on how far
they’ve gone with the government, Useni lamented that the rate at which the
pensioners are dying is becoming alarming. “As of today we are a total of
5,909. I can’t tell you exactly how many are dead, but the ones we know are
over 600, I cannot give you the exact number but it is closing up to 700.”
Henry Oyibo, who came to represent his father in the meeting
was full of empathy for the aging pensioners, he decries the poor treatment of
the pensioners and urged the government to attend to the pensioners with
urgency. “The government should think of those that have labored for this
country. They are really suffering and one would hardly believe they ever
worked with Nigerian Airways. I have to come and represent my father because of
his bad state of health; he can barely walk, he had stroke and he’s still
battling with it. There is very little I can do for him because I don’t even
have a job. So, the government should speed up the processes and save the
remaining ones alive so that they can enjoy what they worked for.”
Furthermore, one of the shortcomings of the then government
in the liquidation process according to the union was lack of standard
logistics in the whole process.
Useni espoused that the government should have made
necessary efforts to pay off the staff when they closed the company’s premises
in 2004, unfortunately, they didn’t receive any payment of whatsoever until
2007, when they were paid five years out of a possible 25 according to the
agreement they had with the government.
“the unfortunate thing about the whole liquidation exercise
was that if they had done due diligence before even asking the Federal
Executive Council (FEC) to approve the liquidation, I don’t think this would
have taken place but, the concocted story was that they said we owed 56 billion
dollars but it wasn’t true because when the liquidator was appointed, what we
were owing was said to be 6 billion naira. Arik as at today is owing in
trillions; how come they’ve not liquidated them and yet, they are giving Arik
more funds, they call it intervention fund. In aviation, six billion naira is
no debt at all because you do everything then you pay later.”
Nigeria
Airways was founded on 23 August
1958. It succeeded the folded West African Airways Corporation
(WAAC), and was initially named WAAC Nigeria. The company took over the WAAC
assets and liabilities and started operations on 1 October 1958.

The
47 years reign of the national carrier came to an abrupt end in 2002. Before
the eventual fold up, it experienced neglect and lack of fund from the then
government; maintenance of the aircrafts was minimal, salaries weren’t coming
in at the right time. With that, it became imminent for the Federal Government to
consider it for privitisation. It is noteworthy to emphasize that Nigeria
happens to be so fortunate in the history of aviation particularly in Africa;
Nigeria was the first African country to have international route passing
through it and with the development, it happens to be the country in Africa
with two international corridors.
Another member of the union, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity emphasized that the fact must be revealed and explained without
acrimony. He lamented that the liquidation of the national carrier had affected
the growth of the economy in no small measure. He further explained that
Nigeria has a country has lost all its means of transportation to miscalculated
privitisation and as a result, the road, which now happens to be the only
surviving general means of transportation has suffered from the setbacks.
“In the first quarter or 2013, the then governor of the
CBN, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, came out confidently to say that foreign carriers
made 17 billion dollars out of our airports and to a great extent, Nigerian
Airways would have had some cut. Somebody once said that the aviation industry
is one that you invest billions and at the end, you hope to get one per cent
profit. You see, one per cent of one million is not the same as one per cent of
one billion. Our elites must come together; we are losing a lot of money
everyday.”
With over 5000 people affected in the liquidation who apparently
were breadwinners and pillars of their 
families and relatives alike, the multiplier effect of that lot could be
close to half a million people, who have had their sources of getting good
education, having food on their tables or having any form of meaningful living
cut short.
The bitterness and contempt mixed with frustration in the voices
of some of the affected pensioners was a reflection of how hard and unbearable
their present predicament is.
Yisa Ojewunmi, a pensioner for 28 years said: “I retired in 1986.
We just want the government to pay because hunger is killing us. They should speed
up anything they want to do; they should let us enjoy the fruits of our labour
before we all die. Imagine me, after working in an organisation like Nigeria
Airways, now, at 72, I am still living hard and I have to go settle for a
security job to make ends meet.”
Idowu Aboguloko, another pensioner of 21 years decried the poor
nature of the whole exercise. “I retired after 21 years. Let the government
also remember that it was never like this in the beginning. Pensioners are
first citizens and shouldn’t be allowed to suffer. We are grandparents and so,
the government should show us some love. They should remember that very soon,
their administration will soon be history and they should do the right thing.
If they attend pensioners meeting, they will understand how much we are
suffering. I want to charge the new minister to do his best; I heard that he is
God fearing and may God continue to help him.”
With developments and concentration on the aviation sector
recently and side talks on the reintroduction of another national carrier, has
the government realised that liquidating the first one in the first place was a
grave error, how much resources, manpower, do they’ve to start up another
national carrier?
Useni enthused: unfortunately again, there was nothing
wrong with the first one. If something was wrong, all they needed was to change
the mode of operation instead of privitisation, they went and liquidated it as
if we don’t need a national carrier, now, we’ve been vindicated. That they are
looking for another one now, it shows that they were wrong; they shouldn’t have
done what they did if they had done due diligence. Again, Nigerian Airways will
always be one of the best in the world when it comes to safety, the records are
there. We confidently keep saying that it was Obasanjo, maybe out of ill
advised, maybe he had some ulterior motives, they killed it; can you count the
number of air crashes that has happened since then? It is just like removing
teaching hospitals and retaining private hospitals, what do you think will
happen to our health system? That is exactly what has happened in aviation.
Unfortunately, we are looking for another one.
“Looking for a national carrier is not a six month project,
if it is done properly; it is going to require nothing less than three years
with serious commitment. So, any minister who will tell me he is looking for a
new national carrier as if he will last three years is joking. The people to
make it happen are the ones you are seeing here now; they are well trained,
they will give you the guidelines. What you have in the aviation industry today
is the residual knowledge of the Nigerian airways staff that are holding the place
now, remove the Nigerian Airways staff and there will not be any aviation
because who is training new people now? Nobody. Who is building on what we have
left? Nobody. It is unfortunate.”
The anonymous pensioner analysed that during the active days of
Nigeria Airways, security and safety was what made them outstanding. “Nigerian
airways lasted 47 years and recorded just nine incidence; three fatal crashes,
one hijack among others. With the exit of Nigerian Airways, within 52 days,
there were five fatal crashes; from EAS to bellview, not to talk of Dana. Let
someone have the audacity to check the records. So what development are we
talking about?
John Kennedy once said, the rich must not go to sleep
because the poor are hungry, the poor are hungry and that is why they cannot
sleep.
Whether we like it or not, we have just this country and we
have to listen to each other no matter the acrimony hence, the labours of our
heroes past could go in vain.

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