Aviation unions have threatened to begin a nationwide strike in the next 14 days following the failure of the Federal Government to pay the N45bn severance package of former workers of the liquidated Nigeria Airways Limited.

The National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, National Union of Air Transport Employees and the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria stated that it was insensitive of the Ministry of Finance to refuse to pay the workers more than 10 months after the approval of the Federal Executive Council.

“We will not wait until the entire workers of the former national carrier die before taking steps to ensure that they are paid their benefits,” the unions said.

In a petition, dated March 19, 2018 and signed by Ocheme Aba for NAAPE, Frances Akinjole for ATSSSAN and Olayinka Abioye for NUATE, which was addressed to the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, the unions accused the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, of willfully delaying the payment of the severance package despite approval by the government.

The ministers of Labour and Employment and Finance were also copied in the petition that was made available to journalists on Sunday.

The unions stated, “It is disheartening that the Minister of Finance has unconsciously and negatively prioritized the President’s directive on this matter. She has equally in a most uncaring manner, refused to heed all entreaties by the hapless ex-workers.

“Not even the cries of the growing list of the avoidable deaths and other afflictions created by their excruciating conditions of existence had pinched the minister’s ear. Our previous letters to the minister have failed to move her just as an earlier letter from the Nigeria Labour Congress on the matter.

“As we can no longer wait for all the ex-staff of the Nigeria Airways to die before their entitlements are paid, we are, therefore, compelled to force Adeosun to come to terms with the reality of the situation. In view of the above, we are sad to inform you that all workers in the aviation sector will commence an indefinite industrial action in 14 days should the ex-Nigeria Airways workers fail to receive their entitlements as approved.”

Meanwhile, complaints from the aviation industry ranked third in 2017, according to the Consumer Protection Council.

The Director-General, CPC, Babatunde Irukera, said the sector ranked closely behind the electricity and banking industries, respectively.

In 2017, aviation had the third highest number of complaints received by the CPC. Electricity had the highest complaints followed by banking,” he said.

According to him, considering the importance of aviation as the most important catalyst for economic expansion, protecting consumer rights should not be seen as usurping the roles of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

He said, “If you think of what grows the economy, it is the movement of goods and people. Aviation today moves far more people than any other means, whether it is domestic, regional, intercontinental or otherwise. More than 65 percent of aviation travel, especially international, is business.

“The CPC was established for the purpose of protecting the consumer in every facet of the economy. Our duties cut across every industry. Overlapping regulation is not confusion and it is not an error or a legislative blunder but a deliberate design. All over the world, it is a deliberate design that underscores the importance of what is being regulated.

“So, the Consumer Protection Directorate in the NCAA is not mutually exclusive or entirely a covering of that space. Sector regulators, by their very nature, may not be in the best position to provide end to end protection for the consumer.”

Punch Newspapers