Updated: Air Nigeria workers protest sack

The staff say Jimoh Ibrahim should pay their entitlements before they are relieved of their appointments.

More than 40 Air Nigeria staff took to the streets, Friday, to protest their sack and unpaid entitlements by the airline.

Earlier this week, Jimoh Ibrahim, the airline’s Chief Executive Officer, announced the shutdown of flight operations and ordered that all but 50 of the company’s workers be sacked with immediate effect.

The Air Nigeria staff say over 700 people are affected by the sack.

The end in flight operations will become effective next Monday, according to Mr. Ibrahim.

The workers, who gathered in front of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), said that they should be given their terminal benefits before being relieved of their appointments.

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Chanting solidarity songs and brandishing placards, they accused Mr. Ibrahim of insincerity; owing them four months’ salary; and non remittance of their pensions and cooperative funds, regularly deducted from their salaries.

“It’s surprising that in this 21st century, a business man can do this kind of thing,” Isaac Balami, President, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), said.

“First of all, there was a time they spent two years, no worker went on leave. You can imagine a pilot, an aircraft engineer, for good two years no rest,” said Mr. Balami.

“Secondly, they can’t even access health insurance. They are paying tax, they don’t have tax clearance. A particular amount is being deducted from their salary every month and this money is not remitted to the purse of the cooperative society,” Mr. Balami added.


Torrid Times

Mr. Ibrahim had stated that the decision to suspend the airline’s operation is to “enable management find a cure for the problems that have been identified.”

But the billionaire businessman has been having a torrid time in his businesses over the past few months. A former director in the airline accused him of diverting government funds to personal use, while regulatory agencies have charged him to court with tax evasion and forgery. Last month, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission detained him for
several hours over allegations of money laundering.

But Mr. Ibrahim has struggled to steady his ship.

The protesting airline workers accused him of a divide and rule tactics after he paid some selected staff their May salaries.

“The management went ahead to give our members forms to fill to denounce NAAPE, under duress. That it’s either you are filling this form or you don’t get your benefits or it’s a sign that you are not loyal,” Mr. Balami said.

“As far as we are concerned, Jimoh Ibrahim or the management of Air Nigeria has not fired anybody yet.

“If he wants to fire them, he should write them a letter and pay them their terminal benefits,” he added.

NCAA’S promise

The workers, after a brief prayer session, trooped into the premises of the NCAA at the Murtala Mohammed Airport where they delivered their letter, asking for the remittance of their entitlements, to a senior official of the agency.

Harold Demuren, NCAA’s Director General, was said to be in Abuja.

“You have not come to fight NCAA; you have come so that we mediate in this matter. It’s unfortunate that you are where you are today,” said Olusola Adetu, Special Technical Adviser to Mr. Demuren.

Mr. Adetu, who said he was familiar with their case, promised to deliver their letter to the Director General.

“I promise that the contents of your letter, those ones that fall within the purview of NCAA regulatory functions, we would handle.

“But those that have to do with labour disputes, we’ll advise that it be referred to the labour arbitration panel,” Mr. Adetu said.

The workers said that they expect a positive response in seven days.

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