N1.3bn Benefits: Ex-NAHCo Workers Give BPE Two-Week Ultimatum

The battle to resolve the lingering N1.3 billion severance benefits of ex-workers of Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (NAHCo) may shift to the law court as lawyer to the embattled workers has given the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and NAHCo two weeks to come clean on the whereabouts of the money or be dragged before a court.

The ex-workers numbering over 700 have engaged the services of human rights lawyer to legally demand the payment of their terminal and severance benefits.

They maintained that the contentious N1.3 billion pending at the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) and BPE remained their severance benefits and not NAHCO’s refund.

Woleshadarenews recently reported the face-off between NAHCO management and their former employees over N1.3 billion worth of severance package paid by the company to the workers after it was privatised in 2005.

While the management claimed that the sum was a loan and due for repayment by government, the workers said NAHCO had no legitimate claim to their benefits.

Counsel to the ex-NAHCo workers, Joe Nwokedi, principal partner at Interveners and Joe Nwokedi Solicitors, told our correspondent in his office in Lagos that all plans to resolve the issue had been frustrated by both NAHCo and BPE, accusing them of plans to divert what belongs to the workers.

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NAHCo warehouse

He further stated that the evasiveness of the aviation ground handling firm and BPE on the matter left them without choice than to seek redress in court.

He noted that his office looked at the claims of the workers and realised that there  was grand design not to pay the workers their severance package after working meritoriously for the company before it was privatised.

“When this matter came up, we looked at it, studied it and discovered that there was injustice done to the former workers. There are so many issues that were hazy that they could not clarify. There were so many areas that needed so many answers. Those answers were not provided. The answers were not satisfactory. We have actually gone to PTAD on the money that our clients are supposed o have been paid and entitled to.

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“As a matter of fact, they  made it so clear to us that the money they are paying us is not from them, which is N1.3 billion that was mapped out for them as their severance package after several years of diligent service at NAHCO. The question now is where is this money?

“They could not answer the question as to the where-about of N1.3 billion. It was on record that it was mapped out for severance package of our clients. That now led us to BPE because they mentioned BPE and in the course of our deliberations with them, they availed us with document from BPE directing them as to when NAHCO was privatised,” he noted.

General Secretary of NAHCo Worker’s Forum, Sanmi Alademoni, lamented the rate at which some of the ex-workers were dying because of inability to get money to take care of their health.

The group, numbering over 700 persons, led by their National Coordinator, Funso Ojubanire and Alademoni, were disengaged from service of NAHCO and retired when the company was privatised.

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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 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 verification.

Wole Shadare