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NiMet: Aviation professionals petition transport minister over workers’ welfare

As defunct NICON Airways’ employees owed four years’ salaries
20 ex-workers of NICON die

Aviation professionals in the country have petitioned the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, complaining about gross neglect and lopsidedness in the workers’ welfare, postings, promotions and employments in the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET).

The professionals, under the aegis of Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), in a letter addressed to Amaechi, said that the irregular employments, promotions of junior officers above their seniors to constant indiscriminate filling of vacant positions from outside the agency without internal and external advertisements of such vacant positions as required by law, are unbecoming and disturbing in the industry.

Signed by the Secretary General, Comrade Abdul Rasaq Saidu, the letter said that in the past years, various Director Generals and Chief Executive Officers of NiMet had openly violated the Public Service Rule through the aforementioned activities carried out on the basis of demographic representation or political sentiments, thereby placing the existing serving career officers in the agency at serious disadvantage, their long years in service notwithstanding.

ANAP, in the official statement made available to journalists on Monday, was bitter that a lot of long serving meteorologists were cheated in 2005, stressing: “In 2005, for example, the then CEO and his management team carried out an employment exercise for fresh meteorologists to G1.08 with first degree to complement the workforce of the agency at that time, but to the surprise of everyone, they placed some of their candidates with same first degree as others on G1.09, that is a grade level higher without any justification”.

According to the professionals, the exercise, done 12 years ago, was effected to position the meteorologists for leadership over their colleagues, jus at they warned that such step was a trend which became an order of the day in MiMet.

With such system, the professionals pointed out that subsequent DG/CEOs and other management see it as an opportunity for them to also position themselves in the agency regardless of the provisions of the Public Service Rules of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as it concerns promotions and employments.

To correct the rot in the agency, ANAP stated that it wrote a letter dated, July 27, 2017, to the Director General of NiMet, Prof. Abubakar Sanni Mashi, when he resumed duty office this year.

The letter, which was acknowledged by NiMet on July 31, 2017, according to ANAP, was intended to create a platform whereby ANA, the DG, NiMet management and other stakeholders to discuss the issue of workers’ welfare in the best interest of industrial peace and harmony in the agency.

Unfortunately, ANAP said: “Up till this moment, the DG/CEO has not responded to ANAP letter; instead, he also decided to take advantage of recent filling of vacant directorship positions in the various directorates of the agency by the Ministry of Transportation (Aviation) and issue out letters of promotion to some selected staff of the agency, some of whom were promoted from GL.15-Assistant General Managers (AGMs) to GL.17- General Managers (GM).

“By this, ANAP’s calculations are that they automatically become seniors to their colleagues AGMs, who have put in more years in service when they have without going through any form of interview.

“More so, these officers just got promoted alongside their colleagues to level 15 in 2015”, ANAP hinted. “What then is the yardstick used by the DG/CEO in handpicking few officers and giving them double promotion in less than 2 years”, ANAP queried.

Stating that Prof. Mashi’s action is unacceptable, provocative, ANAP called for an immediate reversal of the selective exercise on promotion and appointments carried out in the agency.

It also said that “we are also calling on concerned Federal Government authorities to immediately look into NiMet nominal roll duly attached for ease of reference for correct placements and repositioning of NiMet staff otherwise, the union should not be held responsible for whatever action deemed fit in protest of illegalities already perpetrated to deprive the workers of NiMet by management”.

ANAP equally warned that they have directed their members strategically positioned at Abuja NiMet headquarters including all out stations airports, particularly the four international airports to be on standby as they are fully prepared to give it all it takes should all issues stipulated in the letter is not urgently and amicably resolved after 21 days that this letter was received.

In separate letters addressed to the DG/CEO of NiMet, Prof. Mashi, dated September 5, 2017, ANAP had once again reminded and also requested for an urgent union/NiMet management meeting to be held on the September 19, 2017, just as it also emphasied the need for NiMet to recognise ANAP’s executive members of Port Harcourt Zone under Eastern Zonal Council of ANAP.

In a related development, four years after the ex-workers of the defunct airline, NICON Airways, owned by the controversial businessman, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, got judgment of N1 billion in their favour on the payment of their entitlements, the workers of the airline yet to be paid their benefits as ordered by the court.

The former workers are therefore accusing Ibrahim of evading justice despite the judgment of the National Industrial Court of Abuja against him on the matter.

The Court sitting in Abuja, had awarded the workers numbering over 250, about N1bn as unpaid salaries and allowances; and the abrupt closure of the airline, which he acquired from the former Kogi State Governor, Capt. Idris Wada in 2007.

The leadership of the workers also accused Wada of “wickedness” and “abandonment” since the case began in court, stressing that he sold the airline to Ibrahim without the knowledge of any of the directors of the airline. A 21-page court judgment by Justice M.N. Esowe and made available to journalists, the court had awarded the damages to the workers on September 16, 2013, but till date, Ibrahim is yet to honour the judgment. Rather, Jomoh filed an appeal against the judgement, but was equally struck out on May 23, this year by Justice E.N. Agbakoba. Justice Esowe had ordered Ibrahim to pay outstanding arrears of leave allowances; crew allowances, overseas unpaid allowances in United States dollars and cumulative unremitted cooperative by the staff between May 2007 to April 2011 to the former employees amounting to over N1bn. The judgment, Suit No. NICN/LA/192/2011, and made available to our correspondent, had identified Mr. Henry Iwelunmo Mr. Lukman Kolawolem, Mr. George Omoniyi and Mrs. Eunice Odey as the plaintiffs, while NICON Airways, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim and Capt. Idris Ichalla Wada as the defendants.

Justice Esowe, in his judgment, accused Ibrahim and Wada of abandoning the employment of the 1st defendant and carting away all the proper assets of the defendant without any communication and discussion with the plaintiffs on their contracts of employment and subsisting entitlements from the 1st defendant.

The justice described this action as, “fraudulent and improper conduct, which was capable of rendering the 2nd and 3rd defendants personally liable to the plaintiffs.”

A breakdown of the payments indicated that NICON Airways owned by Ibrahim was supposed to pay the total sum of N16.4 million as pension funds to the workers, N8.1m as the cumulative contributions to the Nigeria Social and Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), which was deducted, but unremitted by Jimoh from the workers’ salaries and entitlements between the period; and payment of N808.7m as the aggregate arrears of the workers’ salaries for the period.

Others are: “An order of this honourable court mandating the defendants and their directors to pay the sum of to pay the sum of N4.02, 857m to the plaintiffs forthwith being the aggregate arrears of the plaintiffs’ leave allowance since the months of May 2007 to April 2011 and others that will become due and payable to the plaintiffs during the pendency and final determination of this suit.

“An order of this honourable court mandating the defendants and their directors to pay the sum of N3, 380,500 only to the plaintiffs forthwith being the aggregate arrears of the plaintiffs crew/flight allowance for the months of May 2007 to April, 2011.”

The female justice also awarded the sum of $41,750 to the workers being the aggregate arrears of their overseas allowance, another N16.4m, as pension contribution funds deducted from their salaries, but not remitted to the workers, N2.4m as the cumulative contributions of the workers to cooperative society, N16.4m deducted as pension contributions, but not remitted by Jimoh Ibrahim and 21 per cent interest on the entire sum from May 2007 till 2011; and another 10 per cent per annum until final liquidation of the entire judgment sum among several other damages awarded to the workers.

Ibrahim was also ordered to pay the sum of N20m as the plaintiffs’ solicitors’ fee and expenses. But, it was gathered that rather for Ibrahim to obey the court orders, he delayed his appeal on the matter for another two years till 2015.

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