Ex-workers of Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHco) Plc have been embroiled in a bitter feud over 15 years with the management of the aviation handling company. They alleged a grand plan by the firm to divert N1.12 billion of severance/terminal benefits of former workers. In this interview with WOLE SHADARE, Secretary- General of NAHco Workers’ Forum, Sanmi Alademoni narrates their ordeal
NAHCo and your members are embroiled in a long drawn battle over N1.12bn you claimed are due to ex-workers, how have you people gone in resolving the matter?
The N1.12 billion that NAHCo claims it has paid; it paid something, but the truth of the matter is it wants to take the money from what the Federal Government wants to pay us as our terminal benefits.
When a company is privatized, people who worked at that particular place for that period are entitled to something which Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) is handling now. NAHCo claimed that while we were leaving in 2007 and 2008, they paid some amount of money, the information we got said that the said amount which they said they paid is called ‘Golden Handshake’. It is not the terminal benefit or severance package that they are talking about.
NAHCo alleged that the money was what accrued after the sale of NAHCo and the money they are expecting belongs to NAHCo and not the staff. Does this not look plausible? Why is the money in contention between NAHCo management and the ex-workers?
The first thing we look in this case is that NAHCo did not sell its shares. It was not NAHCo that sold its shares; it was the Federal Government that sold its own stake in that organisation. If any money would accrue, who would this money go to? Is it not to the Federal Government?
People bought into the company. I equally bought into the company. Many of us bought into it and at the end of the day, what happened? We held meetings with management of NAHCo asking them and discovered they wanted to play some pranks.
The management then did not even know that some money was coming for the workers. That was why they quickly moved to get the money and say it is their money. The question that is agitating our minds are: was there a letter from BPE asking NAHCo to pay these people and later they would be reimbursed? If there was no such letter or agreement between BPE and NAHCo then and if NAHCo had written seven letters to BPE, how come they are yet to get any response from them?
What does that tell us? It shows that BPE knows what they are doing. This money does not belong to these people. Not only that, NAHCo is trying to play a very fast one. How on earth would NAHCo, as a corporate body and someone owes you N1.12 billion for 10, 15 years, what are you supposed to do?
Go to court to seek redress for this money. They have not done that. If they are sure that this money belongs to them, why have they not taken these steps?
What steps have you taken to resolve this matter?
What brought about this agitation is that after the verification in Abeokuta sometime last year, I was part of the team that visited PTAD in Abuja in November last year with our national union; we were not hearing much concerning the verification. Even before we went for that verification exercise, the exercise which took place in Lagos, they wrote NAHCo to inform them of a meeting with their ex-staff. NAHCo played a dirty game and hid the letter.
They did not want us to know about the meeting. That was why the PTAD said NAHCo made it difficult for them to address the issue. It was in the papers that we heard that we were not present at the meeting. We contacted them and they said it was the fault of NAHCo.
put a call through to NAHCo’s HR, Mr. Ganiyu Afolabi who is still the Head of HR at NAHCO. Afolabi and I got to the company the same day. We wrote the tedious exams and got to the company the same day. I called him and he said there was no letter from BPE. They were tossing me around and I said I had to do something. They started asking for so many things. Most of our ex-workers are bedridden, many are dead, they died out of frustration.
What is the situation with many of your 750 members that have died or are bedridden because they could not get the money you said belonged to them?
We have engaged the services of a Lagos- based Human Rights Lawyer, Mr. Joe Nwokedi. He has been briefed by Aggrieved Ex-Workers of NAHCo Ltd. to press home the demand for the payment of our terminal/ severance benefits.
Nobody should dare steal from the ex-workers. Anybody doing that is touching blood money and God will not forgive such a person. If people are dying because they can’t afford to buy drugs, food while their money is idling away somewhere, God will not over look that. H
ow long did you and your members worked with the company before they were laid off?
Majority of the ex-workers put in 15 to 20 years of diligent and uninterrupted services in the company prior to the privatization and therefore are entitled to huge remuneration as the payment for their terminal benefits.
Their hope, however, suffered severe setbacks when the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) allegedly shortchanged and eventually underpaid them after 15 years of long wait in anticipation of payment of our terminal benefits which is legally and lawfully due to us as ex-workers of NAHCo Ltd.
We also want clarification on how the number of ex-workers dropped from 986 persons to 783 after verification, an unverified letter to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and the purpose of such letter, illegal deductions from our client’s terminal benefits funds amongst numerous others. We suspect 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.
NAHCo showed us a booklet containing list of those that have been paid. Some as much as N11 million, N9 million, N4 million and so on.
We actually don’t know what went on behind the scenes and that is the reason we are asking these questions. I can read what they sent to some of us stating, your account has been credited with so so amount pension remaining the balance. This means you have paid somebody something before which remains a make-up. This was an alert of one of my members forwarded to me. We asked them to forward them to us. That amount that they claimed.
There is no basis for that claim by NAHCO because by the time you sum up the amount that they claimed they have paid, it is not anywhere close to that N1.1 billion. It is like they are playing games. To unravel all these, was there an agreement between BPE and NAHCo that said pay these people on my behalf and when I have money I will reimburse you? What they are giving was it from the sale of NAHCo as at that time which Federal Government is giving through PTAD.
NAHCO does not have a say in this. Whatever the government earmarked for that purpose, the entire money is meant for my members. That money is not NAHCo’s money, it is workers’ money