On Monday September 24, 2018 the Supervising Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, announced that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the immediate release of N22.68 billion for the payment of outstanding retirement benefits due to the ex-workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways.
It is painful that the approval came 15 years after the Nigeria Airways was liquidated, and many of the supposed beneficiaries are either dead or heavily indebted because of non payment of their retirement benefits. But it is better late than never.
Retirement, which ordinarily should be embraced with joy, in Nigeria, it has become a source of sorrow, frustration, panic and agony.
Satirically, the public servants, having put in all their best into active service would naturally be expected to be rewarded.
While other pensioners in the country are confronted with the challenges of non-payment of their pensions, omission of names from payrolls, underpayment, delayed payment and non-payment of arrears and gratuities; the retirees of the liquidated Nigeria Airways are embedded with debts and worries.
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 schools and others have lost their businesses, fallen ill or indeed, passed on.
This unfortunate situation cannot be allowed to continue under a responsible administration.
The liquidated national career which was founded in 1958 after the dissolution of West African Airways Corporation (WAAC), flew with the name WAAC Nigeria until 1971 when it was re-branded to Nigeria Airways and eventually became liquidated in 2003.
The initial submission regarding the retirement benefits in liquidation was N78billion, and the Federal Government 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.
Incidentally, the N22.68 billion represents a 50 percent of N45.3 billion total entitlements of the ex-workers.
While many people have commended President Muhammadu Buhari-led government for taken the bold step at ensuring that the pains and agonies of these ex-workers are cushioned, some described it as a political propaganda towards the 2019 general elections.
But the objective of the release is inconsequential, provided the affected persons get their pay as directed by Mr President.
The issue of non-payment of retirement benefits and pensions to retirees is gradually becoming a norm in the country especially in the public service which is why whenever any civil servant is approaching retirement , he is enthralled with fears of the dark future created by the government.
We are of the opinion that this ugly trend must be corrected and avoided by both federal and state governments.
The Federal Government is faced with a host of thorny retirement issues.
But to ensure that these Presidential directives are duly implemented in line with extant financial rules, the committee constituted by the finance minister and headed by the Secretary of Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA)
with 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 must rise above board to handle this national assignment with utmost urgency, transparency and integrity.
We therefore, call on the federal government especially the minister of finance to put pressure on the verification committee to fast-track every action that needed to be taken ensure that the funds are disbursed to the ex-workers without further delay.