Aviation unions clash over N3.2bn severance package scam
By Isaac Tersoo Agber
Aviation unions are currently at daggers drawn against Bureau of Public Enterprise for fraudulently withholding severance package for the severed workers of the defunct Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited, the National Union of Air Transport Employee (NUATE) and the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN) have insisted the Bureau must unravel the muddled situation soon.
Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited was carved out of the liquidated Nigeria Airways Limited before it was privatised in December 2009 as part of the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Aviation’s reform of 1996.
The handling company which is presently known as SAHCOL was handed over to Sifax Group on the 23rd of December 2009.
But the unions who were worried by the poor condition and welfare of their workers since they were severed from active service over six years ago accused BPE of fraudulently withholding money approved for payment to workers.
Speaking exclusively to aviation correspondents in Lagos, the Executive Secretary of NUATE, Comrade Olayinka Abioye, said BPE had no basis for withholding the money saying union leaders have done due diligence in ensuring that the package was paid to the workers.
“BPE has no reason to hold on to the severance package of the workers. It is outright fraudulent activities we have done all the due diligence to ensure that money are paid. We have done management meetings, we have had unions meeting and they have met with the management of SAHCOL where it was agreed that the money was owed the people and BPE should pay.”
Abioye, who further stated that the Unions had meeting with the BPE, Management of SAHCOL and consultants to the government and they had given go ahead for the payment of the package.
His words, “The unions, BPE, the Management and HR consultants have held several meeting and several process that will led to the successful disengagement of these workers were agreed upon.
“The process according to the meeting were payment of gratuity, pension arrears on pension contributions, three months payment in lieu of severance pay-off, repatriation accrued leave, outstanding one month salary that was owed and all this processes was concluded except two in which one is the major one.
The major one was the refusal of BPE to release in its custody the sum of N3.2bn for SACHOL employees representing their 5 years payment total emolument. Also, we agreed that all the employees to be disengaged must undergo perseverance training and the liquidator till tomorrow reneged, he said.
Abioye, however, said the unions had approached the National Industrial Court to seek justice for its members.
“Since it was an industrial issue, we have decided to approach the National Industrial Court to get justice for our members.”
When contacted, the Public Relation Officer of BPE, Alex Okon promised to confirm the incident after consultations but wasn’t forthcoming before the report was filed for publishing.