Ex-staffers of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, and the management are in a row over allegations of unpaid severance gratuities, following the privatisation of the company in 2005.
While the ex-workers claimed that they were yet to be paid their entitlements 15 years on, the management dismissed the claims, showing evidence of disbursements totalling over N1.13 billion paid to the workers since 2008.
The tango might not be unconnected with the gross disparity in the new remittances made to the workers by the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), which now handles their pensions.
Some of the beneficiaries recently gave an account of the untold hardship they had to put up with to receive their severance pay since they were laid off under questionable circumstances after privatisation of the company.
They alleged that for 15 years, many of them could not get their entitlements before they died, with many decrying the irregularities and alleged under-hand dealings by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), and PTAD.
They faulted claims by the aviation ground handling firm that it had paid over N1.13 billion to the ex-workers since its privatisation. They challenged the firm to open its books for scrutiny to show the people that were paid and how it was disbursed, lamenting that they have lost a number of their members to treatable illnesses.
General Secretary of the former NAHCO staff forum, Alademomi Sanmi, blamed NAHCO for their woes. Sanmi alleged that the company took delight in their plight, to the extent of eyeing and targeting pension funds approved for them by the government, which “in fairness cannot even equate with our overall suffering over the years.”
The management of NAHCO, however, said if they had not taken the initiative to bailout BPE and offset the gratuity of its 936 pensioners with N1.13billion when they did, the story would have been entirely different.
The management regretted that their efforts had gone unappreciated by the workers and PTAD, as the latter was yet to refund NAHCO N1.13billion despite a series of request letters.
An in-house source revealed details of 936 former staffers that were beneficiaries of NAHCO’s payment, with some getting as much as N17 million in benefits in accordance to their levels at the time of disengagement.
The source said: “If they claim some of them recently received monies as gratuity or pension, I would not know where that is coming from, as it is not from NAHCO. The truth is that the gratuity was supposed to be paid by the BPE. NAHCO was privatised through an Initial Public Offer (IPO). But when it was discovered that proceeds will not come in early, for the sake of the affected workers and peace, the management made a proposal to the board to pay the workers, and when BPE is ready, they would pay the company back.
“We have the beneficiaries’ files and details. It is a lie to say they were not paid. I was also affected. I have been a staff member for over 20 years now. I was disengaged, paid off, later reabsorbed into the company and given a new appointment letter effective January 2008.”
He added that as at the time NAHCO was privatised, it wasn’t a jointly-funded gratuity, but solely funded by the company.
“We had to crystallise the gratuity, meaning gratuity then was paid to the people, who were leaving the company, and those who were disengaged and reabsorbed. So, everyone’s gratuity was paid.”
The management also hinted that about 13 correspondences were written for the refund of about N1.133 billion between NAHCO and BPE, and later PTAD.
Some of the correspondents were dated as far back as May 15, 2008.