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Forgotten Heroes: The Plight of Nigeria Airways Retirees

Nearly 6,000 retirees from the now-defunct Nigeria Airways have made an emotional plea to the Federal Government, urging their reinstatement into the Defined Benefits Scheme (DBS), which would guarantee them lifetime pensions. These retirees, who dedicated years of service to the national carrier, are now facing an uncertain future, abandoned by a system they once served with unwavering loyalty.

In a heartfelt letter dated May 20, 2024, and signed by Stephen Onuh and Ahmed Sulugambari, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Association of Airways Retired Workers of Nigeria (AARWN), the retirees sought an audience with Mr. Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development. Their intent is to voice their grievances directly, particularly regarding the dismissive attitude of some ministry staff towards their plight.

The retirees also petitioned President Bola Tinubu, imploring him to address their exclusion from the DBS. Before Nigeria Airways’ liquidation in 2004, they were part of this scheme, ensuring them regular pension payments. However, following the controversial dissolution of the airline by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, they were unjustly removed from the scheme, leaving them in financial limbo.

In a letter dated December 5, 2023, addressed to President Tinubu, the pensioners emphasized a critical point: pensioners are meant to receive payments until their death, not to be cut off abruptly. They pointed out that the N45 billion severance package distributed to some members was only a fraction of the ten years of unpaid pension arrears, a paltry compensation for years of dedicated service and financial hardship.

The retirees vividly recounted how they were on the monthly pension payroll before the airline’s liquidation in September 2004. They noted that various government interventions over the years had called for their reintegration into the federal pension scheme. In 2012, the Senate conducted a public hearing on pension matters and subsequently resolved that the retirees should be included in the monthly pension scheme. Similarly, the House of Representatives, in a letter dated February 26, 2013, to the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, advocated for their immediate integration.

Despite these legislative efforts, the retirees lamented that they remain unpaid, enduring four years of pension arrears from 2020 to 2024. They urgently called on the Federal Government to mandate the Pensions Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) to manage their pension payments and integrate them into the monthly payroll, hoping this would finally resolve their enduring struggle.

In a separate letter to Mr. Keyamo, dated May 20, 2024, the retirees expressed their frustration with certain staff members in the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace. They accused the office of the Deputy Director and desk officers of obstructing their integration into the federal pension payroll, despite numerous appeals and interventions from relevant government agencies. These bureaucratic hurdles, they argued, amount to sabotage, violating Section 173 of the 1999 constitution and undermining the efforts of both the Minister and the Permanent Secretary.

The retirees made a touching request: “We humbly beseech you, sir, to consider granting us an audience to get a chance to present our matter directly. We propose to come as a delegation of two, being the Chairman and Vice Chairman of our association.”

Their appeal is more than a call for financial justice; it is a plea for dignity and recognition. These retirees, once proud employees of Nigeria’s national carrier, now find themselves forgotten. Their hope lies in the hands of the government, to honor their past contributions and ensure a secure and respectful future.

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