FEC approves N45b severance pay for ex-Nigeria Airways staff

One of the major highlights of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday was the approval by the Federal Government of N45 billion severance package for workers of the liquidated Nigeria Airways.
Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on a Wednesday.
The affected workers had Wednesday in Lagos protested about the Federal Government’s failure to pay their severance benefits running into N78 billion.
Sirika said: “Past governments decided to liquidate Nigeria Airway without tending to the issues of the entitlement of the workers and the workers have been struggling to get paid.
“This government when it came on board decided to take it seriously. And I am happy to announce that Mr. President has approved N45 billion which has been confirmed to be the entitlements of this workers and the Ministry of Finance has been instructed to pay.
“And the Ministry of Finance has written to me last week that they have received instructions to pay these workers and therefore they are going about setting up all the modalities to pay.
“It will not be paid through my ministry before somebody will say I have stolen it. It will be paid by ministry of Finance through a process and that process will commence very soon.
“So, I’m very glad to say that this is also what this government has done. It took a long time for the workers of Nigeria Airways to be attended to and we thank them for their patience.
“Unfortunately, we lost many of them many of whom I have known personally. So this will soon be dealt with.”
Sirika has said that there would be no going back on the concessioning of Nigeria airports starting with Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt.
He said this is so because government could no longer sustain the funding of the 22 airports across the country.
The minister observed that the Murtala Mohammed Airport for instance was originally built to handle 200,000 travellers per annum but today it is handling eight million passengers per annum.
On the protest embarked upon by aviation workers over the comcessioning, he stated: “You will agree with me that this is not news, they have done so in the past.
“We are a democratic government and we recognize that it is their right to protests and what they are protesting is whether there will be job losses and labour issues.
“And we have been very consistent and we have been engaging them. This time, it will be very different.
Meanwhile, the federal government has said that there has been no attempt by the federal government to deny the registration of United Labour Congress (ULC).
Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, in his remarks during the briefing, assured that the registration process of the congress was on.
He pointed out that the conditions for registration of a labour centre was contained on the Trade Union Act, 2004, adding that government would therefore not deny it once those conditions were satisfied.
He observed that members of ULC work in critical sectors of the economy and should not be neglected in their agitations in order not to put the economy in a critical condition.
He also denied calling the ULC an illegal union, saying: “You will also recall that the ULC, United Labour Congress, a proposed Labour federation that has applied for registration to government also decided to ask its affiliates to go on strike starting from Monday.
“The affiliates in question are sensitive affiliates because they control critical areas of our economy, the National Union of Electricity Workers (NUE), the NUPENG, the National Association of Pilots, Engineers and Electronic Managers in the Airports, NAPE and the National Union of Banks and Financial Institutions Workers which is NUBIFE.
“These are unions that affect the lives of everybody. If you don’t have electricity, if you don’t have petrol and diesel and kerosene and you don’t have access to money in your ATM in the banks, something serious could happen to one’s life.
So, we decided to, in the spirit of collective bargaining and social dialogue as enshrined in the ILO Convention, engage them.
“The tripartite decision yielded fruit. We engaged them yesterday and this morning, we engaged them before Council and I am happy to announce that they have agreed to call off the strike with effect from today. So, we are getting the striking workers back to their beats.
“The underlying thing is that the government has assured all of them that we have the welfare of our people at heart and for those of them, who were angling for payment of arrears of salaries, shortfall of salaries, promotion arrears, leave allowances, benefits, government has shown good faith and has started paying.
“We hope to continue paying and the monies that are not paid this year will be captured in the 2018 Appropriation budget.”

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