By G9ija

Ex-workers of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, have said that the contentious N1.13 billion pending at the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), remains their severance benefits and not NAHCO’s refund.

And to challenge NAHCO management’s request that the bounty be paid as a “gratuity refund”, the ex-staffers have taken the matter to a law court.

Thereporters recently reported the face-off between the NAHCO management and their former workers over N1.13 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 the government, the workers said NAHCO had no legitimate claim to their benefits.
 
General Secretary of the group, Sanmi Alademoni, said the sum in question was “a golden handshake” from NAHCO to about 750 disengaged workers.
 
Alademomi said: “The issue in question is not pension, but severance packages. That is not what NAHCO paid us. Our grouse is that NAHCO wants to share in our terminal benefits given by the Federal Government, by requesting for the refund of N1.13 billion. NAHCO has no such agreement with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) that was handling our matter before it was transferred to PTAD. If they do, why hasn’t NAHCO gone to court to reclaim their money?

“We are all pained by this development, because we see a lot of our members dying almost daily over minor ailments that some money would have treated. We have been suffering, living in penury and deserving of all the respite we can get. Yet, some people at NAHCO still want to claim our benefit, and we said, no,” Alademoni said.

To press home their claims, the workers have engaged the services of human rights lawyers to legally demand for the payment of their terminal and severance benefits.

The group, numbering over 750 persons led by their National Coordinator, Funso Ojubanire, and Alademoni, were disengaged from service of NAHCO, and retired when the company was privatised.

Majority of the ex-workers had put in up to 15 to 20 years prior to the company’s privatisation, saying they were entitled to huge remuneration as the payment for their terminal benefits.

They claimed to have suffered severe setbacks when PTAD allegedly short-changed 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 number dropped from 986 persons to 783 after verification.

Others include an unverified letter to the BPE, and the purpose of such a letter, illegal deductions from ex-workers’ terminal benefits funds amongst numerous others.

The Ex- workers also maintained that it was the date of their conversion as against the date of employment that was submitted to PTAD by NAHCO Ltd. for computation.

The group is however very convinced that there was foul play in the payment of their terminal benefits, as the process adopted by the PTAD in arriving at the amount paid to them is anything but transparent and fair.

Alademoni said the group is determined to fight what he described as “gross injustice and brazen” attempt to impoverish the downtrodden citizens of Nigeria.