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Ex-workers of Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) have taken their grievances to the National Industrial Court with a view to getting justice in a matter that had dragged on for many years.
The ex-workers are in a battle to resolve their lingering N1.3 billion severance benefits which were yet to be paid to them by the company.
Justice Elizabeth Ama Oji of Court six of the National Industrial Court in Lagos, dismissed the application of the counsels to the defendants, NAHCO Plc, the Pension Transition Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) that the claimants’ (Ex-NAHCO) workers lack the locus standi to initiate the court process, stressing that they (claimants) do not represent the entirety of the ex-workers.
Counsel to the ex-workers, Jude Chukwu of Joe Nwokedi chambers, principal partner at Interveners and Joe Nwokedi Solicitors, told Aviation Metric in court after the trial of the case was fixed for February 21, 2023, said what happened was that the charge filed for the jurisdiction that the court does not have the power to preside over this matter on the ground that the claimant is represented in the court processes do not have the consent and authority of the majority of ex-NAHCo staff.
“We said no, not only do they have the authority of the majority, they have the authority of almost every ex-NAHCo staff. Not just that, for you to bring an application of this nature, you must be a member of such a group, he is not a member of the ex-staff and does not have locus standi; not having the authority to submit such an application. The court agreed with us that they don’t have the authority to challenge the people in the process.”
“The court agreed with us and struck out their application. This matter has been adjourned for trial and hopefully, by the next adjourned date, we won’t have any other infringement. Even though from the look of things, the BPE is saying that they have an application that is not before the court, and for me, it is not valid until that very day if we come to court and we discover such an application and then you bring it. Or if they serve us, we respond accordingly”.
He alleged that the counsels to the BPE, PTAD, and NAHCO worked clandestinely to truncate the case, adding, “They want to terminate this case. They don’t want the court to hear the grievance of these people, that is what gives strength to this case. We believe that by God’s Grace we will pass through this hurdle and the court will hear this case on merit”.
“They have suffered since 2005. From what we are saying now, they are saying 2005, 2008 but whichever one it is, they have suffered. Decades ago, they have been rendered homeless and went through some pain because of the fact that they have served this country and nobody wants to take care of them. This is their entitlement. It is not as if they are begging for it”.
“They don’t want this court to hear the grievance of these people and from what we have presented to the court, we have a good case. I believe that we are going to get justice for these people, they deserve it”, he added.
General Secretary of NAHCo Worker’s Forum, Sanmi Alademomi lamented that the group had lost some of its members due to illnesses and that they could have used the money to take care of themselves.
“Their families are languishing in abject poverty and others have been chased out of their homes. As a group we shouldn’t just close our eyes, we should forge ahead, and go to the court of law to ensure that we get what rightly belongs to us. You can imagine someone who works for a company for 15-25 years being given N15,000 as a benefit. Where is it done?”
“We didn’t just go to court because we wanted to or because we wanted to make noise, we went to court after we sought the advice of our legal counsel. We looked at the pros and cons together and studied everything and we found we needed to go to court. We believe in what we have on the ground with our lawyer that we will get justice”.
The group, numbering over 700 persons, led by their National Coordinator, Funso Ojubanire and Alademomi, were disengaged from the service of NAHCO and retired when the company was privatised.
The majority of the ex-workers had put in up to between 15 and 20 years prior to the company’s privatisation, saying they were entitled to huge remuneration as payment for their terminal benefits.
They claimed to have suffered severe setbacks when PTAD allegedly shortchanged and eventually underpaid them after 15 years of a long wait in anticipation of the payment of their terminal benefits, which is “legally and lawfully” due to them as ex-workers of NAHCO Ltd.
The group equally alleged that there were several issues and questions to be cleared by PTAD with respect to their terminal benefits, such as information pertaining to the effective date of privatisation of NAHCO Ltd.; the method/mode used in computing the amount paid to each ex-worker; a clarification on how the number of ex-workers dropped from 986 persons to 783 after verificationGoogle+