17 years after airline’s death: Ex-NICON Airways workers lament colleagues’ death, unpaid benefits

The over 200 ex-workers of defunct NICON Airways whose salaries and other entitlements have not been paid since May 2007 when the carrier ceased operations have appealed to Senator Jimoh Ibrahim to pay them what is owed them.

They hereby appealed to any public-spirited and human rights-oriented organizations to lend their support and come to their rescue.

They stated that after losing his cases at the National Industrial Court and appeals at courts of law, they wondered what more reasons they have to renege if not wickedness and calculated obedience to the laws of the land.  

Sen. Jimoh Ibrahim

Ibrahim was the de-facto owner and chairman of NICON Airways which he acquired as EAS Airlines and renamed NICON Airways from its former owner, Capt Idris Wada.

Wada, after the sale of EAS Airlines to Ibrahim, became the Vice-Chairman of NICON Airways and later the Governor of Kogi State.

The new owner, thereby automatically acquired all the staff, assets, liabilities and obligations of the EAS Airlines which had been operating passenger services since 1999.

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NICON Airways flew for approximately one year before it became grounded due to the alleged lack of commitment of its new management to the maintenance of the two B737 aircraft in its fleet, leading to the eventual folding up of the airline without any form of communication or information or directive to the staff, leaving the workers speculating and without any salaries.

The situation forced the workers to seek redress at the National Industrial Court, Ikoyi on November 3oth, 2011 to compel the management of NICON Airways to pay them their accrued salaries and allowances.

They were however directed to the National Industrial Court Abuja where disputes between employers and workers were being determined.

One of the aggrieved workers, Mr. Henry Iwelunmo told Aviation Metric that with that, “Began our relentless efforts to claim our rights in suit No: NCN/LA/192/2011 at the National Industrial Court, Abuja on November 30, 2011.”

“After two years precisely, September 16, 2013, judgment in the suit quoted above was given in favour of ex-NOCON Airways staff. The defendant appealed the judgment at the same court and lost again on May 23, 2017, in suit N0: NICN/ABJ/280/M/2014”.

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Not satisfied with the judgment, Iwelunmo, brandishing copies of the court verdicts disclosed that the firm approached the Court of Appeal, Abuja judicial division on two occasions and lost on February 16, 2021.

‘To date, the defendant has not deemed it fit enough to pay us our legitimate and hard-earned money, over-due entitlements in the form of salaries, pegged by the National Industrial Court from May 2007 to April 2011 and other allowances, “ he stated.

The ex-workers called on Ibrahim to do the needful without further delay, lamenting that they have lost many of their colleagues to unavoidable deaths, with their families and dependents in abject poverty and untold hardship with many others facing serious health challenges.

The former workers further stated that in the face of current serious harsh economic realities in Nigeria today, more suffering and deprivations have been unleashed on ex-NICON Airways staff, stressing that to avoid further deaths, urgent steps are needed to avert disastrous consequences looming right now.

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“We have no issues with Senator Jimoh Ibrahim’s present predilection for politics, but he should please treat members of the former airline with a modicum of empathy and fear of God.’

NICON Airways

“The reprehensible attitude smacks of extreme callousness and lack of sympathy. For people who laboured for successful flight operations of NICON Airways while it existed, only to be suddenly abandoned with aircraft sold and flight operations brought to an abrupt end, without the knowledge of staff let alone paying their legitimate accrued salaries and other benefits. What an insensitive chairman and management.”

Wole Shadare

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