Buhari approves N22bn for Nigerian Airways retirees, N20 billion for ASUU

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the release of N42.68 billion for workers in the aviation and education sectors.

N22.68 billion is for the settlement of outstanding retirement benefits due to the ex-workers of the Nigeria airways while the balance N20 billion is for the immediate release to public universities for their revitalization schemes.

Addressing a press conference on these developments in Abuja Monday, minister of finance Hajia Zainab Ahmed noted that the initial submission regarding the retirement benefits of ex-workers of Nigeria Airways limited in liquidation was N78 billion.

This amount she said “was verified by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) and other relevant stakeholders in line with the conditions of service of Nigeria Airways and other extant rules and regulations.”

Ahmed noted that “at the end of the verification, the sum of N45 billion was agreed as the total retirement benefits of the affected staff.”

The ex-workers of Nigeria Airways were not paid their retirement benefits for the past 15 years despite the liquidation which brought about myriad of inconveniences for the ex-workers. This unfortunate situation she said “cannot be allowed to continue under a responsible administration.”

It is on this basis that President Buhari approved the immediate release of N22.68 billion being 50% of N45.3 billion total entitlements of the ex-workers of Nigeria Airways limited in liquidation.

To ensure that the President’s directives are duly implemented in line with extant financial rules, the finance minister constituted a Committee to be headed by the Secretary of PICA.

With other members including representatives of the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the Federal Ministry of Aviation, the federal ministry of finance, the Bureau of Public Enterprises, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), the Union of ex-workers of Nigeria Airways limited in liquidation and Budget Office of the Federation.

The Committee is expected to physically verify the claims of the Pension and relevant Next-of-Kin before the release of the funds to the approved beneficiaries.

Regarding funding measures for the revitalization of public universities, Zainab Ahmed stated that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal government of Nigeria in 2013 to improve funding for staff welfare and the provision of critical infrastructure in public universities but some challenges had dogged the implementation of the bilateral agreement due to revenue shortages and other reasons.

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To revitalize public universities and ensure smooth running of the tertiary education in the country, it was decided that N20 billion be immediately released for the public universities through the revitalization scheme.

These funds Ahmed said will be released to the beneficiary universities in line with the established criteria used by the Nigerian Universities Commission.

The Government, the finance minister said, will monitor the progress of the implementation with a view to resolving emerging issues and keeping the promises to the relevant stakeholders.

ASUU Vice President, Mr. Emmanuel Osodeke, while responding, wondered why government was releasing only N20 billion, which was to have been a palliative since September 2017.

According to him, “what we expect to be discussing now is how to properly fund public universities sustainably without recourse to national budgets.”

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