More than 15 years after the liquidation of Nigeria Airways Limited, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the immediate release of N22.68 billion for settlement of the retirement benefits of ex-workers of the defunct airline.
The supervisory minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed, announced on Monday that the president also approved the release of another N20 billion as ‘revitalisation’ fund of public universities based the request by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Mrs Ahmed who made the announcement through a series of tweets with a her personal Tweeter handle, @ZShamsuna, said the N22.68 billion was 50 per cent of the total entitlement of N45.3 billion agreed for the liquidated former airline workers.
The initial submission for the retirement benefits of the workers was about N78 billion. But, the N45.3 billion was arrived at following the verification exercise conducted by the presidential initiative on continuous audit (PICA) in conjunction with other interest groups.
The minister said the verification was conducted in line with the conditions of service offered the former staff by Nigeria Airways Limited in liquidation and other extant rules and regulations.
Following the long delay in the payment of the retirement benefits after the liquidation of Nigeria Airways Limited, Mrs Ahmed said many of the ex-workers went through untold hardship.
“This unfortunate situation cannot be allowed to continue under a responsible administration,” she said.
To ensure the presidential directive on the payment of the entitlement was duly implemented, she said a committee has been constituted headed by the secretary of PICA, MK Dikwa, to handle the exercise.
Other members of the committee include representatives of the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation; Office of the Accountant General of the Federation; Ministry of Aviation; Federal Ministry of Finance; Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE); Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD); Budget Office of the Federation and Union of Ex-Workers of Nigeria Airways Limited (in liquidation).
This committee is expected to physically verify the claims of pensioners and relevant next-of-kins before the release of funds to the approved beneficiaries.
Other modalities will be worked out by the committee, to ensure speedy payment, transparency and integrity of the process, it was learnt.
On the N20 billion approved for the revitalisation of public universities, Mrs Ahmed recalled the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the federal government and ASUU in 2013 on the need to improve funding for staff welfare and provision of critical infrastructure.
Despite certain challenges, including shortage of revenue and other reasons, which affected the implementation of the bilateral agreement, Mrs Ahmed said the president was determined to revitalise public universities and ensure their smooth running.
She said the approval of N20 billion for immediate release for public universities through the revitalisation scheme was part of that determination.
The minister said the funds would be released to beneficiary universities in line with the established criteria used by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
Progress in the implementation of the presidential directive, she said, would be monitored with a view to resolving emerging issues and keeping the government’s promises to relevant interest groups