Former workers and retirees of the defunct Nigerian Airways Limited, NAL, have pleaded with the Federal Government to pay their outstanding pension entitlement, to enable them to cope with difficulties and consequences of the rampaging coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.
Speaking in Abuja at the National Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, Chairman of the Nigeria Airways Pensioners’ branch of NUP, Sam Nzene, said: “Nothing has been given to us so far as palliatives, even our pensions that have been due since two years, the balance of 50 per cent have not been paid. Our members are suffering greatly since this lockdown commenced nothing to eat. Considering our age, some of us have terminal sicknesses and we can’t buy drugs because of the situation.
“Some of my members have even died from COVID-19. I can authoritatively tell you that some of my members have died especially in Kano, we have about five members that have died due to COVID-19. We are appealing to the government to pay the balance of our pension. We are not even talking about palliative because no one is thinking about the wellbeing of pensioners. All we are saying is, pay us our pension so that we can survive and take care of ourselves under this terrible period. Considering our age, we are very vulnerable and the government should consider us in their plans.” Similarly, some of the former Nigerian Airways retirees who spoke in Lagos, recalled that since the national carrier was liquidated by former President Olusegun led federal Government in 2004, only 50 per cent of their five years’ pension was paid twice in 2008 and 2018. They begged the federal government to pay up the outstanding balance, being the remaining 50 per cent for the initial five years that was paid in 2018 and the remaining years to date. One of the retirees, Oba Olufemi Ogunleye, the Towulade of Akinale in Ogun, appealed to the government to sympathise with the ex-staff of the defunct airways by paying their outstanding pension and disengagement entitlements. The monarch, who retired from the airline in 2000, said most of the affected persons were in their old age and needed money to meet some of their medical needs. Ogunleye informed that some retirees had already died due to abject poverty, saying “we are appealing to the federal government to pay our outstanding entitlements. This will go a long way in enabling us to cater for ourselves and dependants.” Also, Mr. Andrew Oddiri, who was the director of administration as of when the airline folded up in 2004, corroborated the fact that since then, the ex-staff of the airways was only paid twice in 2008 and 2018.
According to him, that despite the government’s approval to pay since May last, there was assurance for the payment in October 2019 but that unfortunately, no payment had been received. He said “We want the federal government to pay our outstanding pension now as this is our legitimate entitlement, which we worked hard to earn. We will appreciate the payment at this critical period when COVID-19 is seriously ravaging the world. There had been lots of palliatives for people out there, but we have not enjoyed any.
Most of my colleagues are presently on the sickbed but are not financially buoyant to pay up their medical bills. We need this money because we worked for it.” Similarly, Mr. Ayuba Kyari, who would have retired in 2013, but forced to leave in 2004 when the airline liquidated nine years earlier, appealed for prompt payment of his outstanding pension. Kyari claimed that he had lots of outstanding bills to settle, saying “we need this money seriously; my last son just got admission into the university. The majority of us, our health is at stake, so we need these entitlements to live meaningfully again. We heard that last year’s May, approval for the payment was granted by President Muhammadu Buhari but up till now, we have not seen the money. We plead with every authority involved in the payment to consider our age and need to make the payment promptly.”