CEM REPORT, AVIATION | Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) have been dragged before the National Industrial Court over the non-payment of N1.3 billion severance payment.
Former workers of NAHCO Plc (now Skyway Aviation Handling Company – SAHCO Plc) protesting non-payment of their entitlements since 2018 also included the Pension Transition Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) as defendants.
The about 750 workers who were disengaged after NAHCO was privatised in 2005 are praying for an order to ensure the payment of their benefits.
They were supposed to be paid over N1.13 billion worth of severance packages as benefits. However, they are yet to get the payment.
The affected workers lamented alleged irregularities and corrupt activities by PTAD and BPE, the two agencies handling the payment of pensions for them.
At the latest court sitting, the defendants asked the Industrial Court to strike out the case, claiming the claimants lack the locu standing to initiate the court process. The defendants also said the claimants do not represent the entirety of the ex-workers.
Justice Elizabeth Ama Oji of Court 6 of the National Industrial Court in Lagos, however, dismissed the application of the defendants after hearing the defence of the ex-workers.
Counsel for the ex-workers, Jude Chukwu and Joe Nwokedi, who spoke to journalists alleged that the counsels for the BPE, PTAD and NAHCO worked clandestinely to truncate the case.
“They asked the court to strike out the case. We said no, not only do they have the authority of the majority, they have the authority of almost every ex-NAPPS staff. Not just that, for you to bring an application of this nature, you must be a member of such a group. He is not a member of the ex-staff and does not have locus standi; not having the authority to submit such an application. The court agreed with us that they don’t have the authority to challenge the people in the process.
“The court agreed with us and struck out their application. This matter has been adjourned for trial and hopefully, by the next adjourned date, we won’t have any other infringement. Even though from the look of things, the BPE is saying that they have an application which is not before the court and for me it is not valid until that very day if we come to court and we discover such an application and then you bring it. Or if they serve us, we respond accordingly.”
“They want to terminate this case. They don’t want the court to hear the grievances of these people, that is what gives strength to this case. We believe that by God’s Grace we will pass through this hurdle and the court will hear this case on its merit.
“They have suffered since 2005. From what we are saying now, they are saying 2005, 2008 but whichever one it is, they have suffered. Decades ago, they have been rendered homeless and gone through some pain because they have served this country and nobody wants to take care of them. This is their entitlement. It is not as if they are begging for it.”
“They don’t want this court to hear the grievance of these people and from what we have presented to the court; we have a good case. I believe that we are going to get justice for these people, they deserve it,” he added.
The General Secretary of NAHCO Worker’s Forum, Sanmi Alademomi lamented that the group has lost some of its members to ailments that they could have taken care of if they had some money.
“NAHCO has seemingly taken delight in our suffering to the extent of eyeing and targeting pension funds approved by the government for us which in fairness cannot even equate with our overall suffering over the years.
“Their families are languishing in abject poverty and others have been chased out of their homes. As a group, we shouldn’t just close our eyes; we should forge ahead, and go to the court of law to ensure that we get what rightly belongs to us. You can imagine someone who works for a company for 15-25 years being given N15,000 as a benefit. Where is it done?
“We didn’t just go to court because we wanted to or because we wanted to make noise, we went to court after we sought the advice of our legal counsel. We looked at the pros and cons together and studied everything and we found out we needed to go to court. We believe in what we have on the ground with our lawyer that we will get justice.”
The case was adjourned for trial and fixed for February 21, 2023.
The BPE had earlier claimed failures in the required contribution to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) as the reason for the delay.