…Approves N20bn for ASUU for public varsities funding
Fifteen years after the Nigeria Airways was liquidated, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the immediate release of N22.68 billion for the settlement of outstanding retirement benefits due to the ex-workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways.
Nigeria Airways Limited, which was the nation’s carrier founded in 1958 after the dissolution of West African Airways Corporation (WAAC) with the name WAAC Nigeria until 1971, when it was rebranded to the name it, until it ceased operations in 2003.
The Supervising Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who made this known on Monday during a press briefing with the representatives of the ex-Airways pension union and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the Federal Ministry of Finance, Abuja, said that President Buhari ordered immediate release of the funds.
The President also approved N20 billion for the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for funding of public universities.
According to the minister, the initial submission regarding the retirement benefits in liquidation was N78billion.
She said that the amount was verified by Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) and other relevant stakeholders in line with the condition of service of Nigeria Airways Limited in liquidation and other extant rules and regulations, at the end of which the sum of N45 billion was agreed as the total retirement benefits of the affected staff.
The minister recalled that the ex-workers of the airways in liquidation were not paid their retirement benefits for the past 15 years despite the liquidation.
“As a result of the delays in settlement of these benefits, many ex-workers have been thrown out of their houses, their children have been unable to attend school and others have lost their businesses, fallen ill or indeed, passed on. This unfortunate situation cannot be allowed to continue under a responsible administration.
“It is on this note that Mr. President has approved the immediate release of N22.68 billion being 50 percent of N45.3 billion total entitlements of the ex-workers.
“To ensure that these Presidential directives are duly implemented in line with extant financial rules, I will constitute a committee to be headed by the Secretary of PICA.
Other members include representatives of the office of the Head of Service of the Federation, the Federal Ministry of Aviation, the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Bureau of Public Enterprises, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation,
Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), the union of ex-workers of the airways and Budget Office of the Federation.
“The committee is expected to physically verify the claims of the pensioners and relevant Next-of-Kin before the release of funds to the approved beneficiaries.
Other modalities are expected to be worked out by the committee to ensure transparency and integrity of the process.
“Upon my resumption of office as the Minister of Finance, some pending fiscal issues in the Aviation and Education sectors were immediately brought to my attention.
I took it as a challenge to quickly address key issues regarding the settlement of existing claims in both of these sectors.
“Consequent upon this, I am happy that Mr. President has graciously approved the sum of N22.68 billion and N20 billion to aviation and education sectors,” she added.
On the funding measures for the revitalisation of public universities, the minister recalled that ASUU signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Government sometime in 2013 on the terms and conditions on which the government would improve funding for staff welfare and the provision of critical infrastructure in both federal and state universities.
However, the minister said that the implementation of the agreement has had certain challenges due to revenue shortages and other reasons.
Ahmed assured that in his determination to revitalise the public universities and ensure smooth running of the tertiary education system in the country, President Buhari has approved the sum of N20 billion for immediate release through the revitalisation scheme.
The minister assured that the funds would be released to the beneficiary universities in line with the established criteria used by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC).
“This government will monitor the progress of the implementation with a view to resolving emerging issues and keeping our promises to the relevant stakeholders,” she added.
In attendance were the Accountant General of the Federation Ahmed Idris; the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mahmoud Isa-Dutse; Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, who represented the Minister of Education;
Executive Secretary of Tetfund, Dr. Abdullahi Baffa and the Director of Home Finance, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Siyanbola Olubunmi amongst others.