The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, recently disclosed that the Federal Government would pay former workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways their terminal benefits put at N45 billion. The government said it would also pay outstanding obligations to local contractors between 2006 and 2015. The minister, who revealed this when she appeared before the ad hoc committee of the Senate on ‘Promissory Note Programme and Bond Issuance’, chaired by the deputy Chief Whip, Senator Francis Alimikhena, said that the terminal benefits of ex-Nigeria Airways workers would be paid through promissory notes and bonds issuance. Adeosun also admitted that the unpaid Federal Government’s obligations constituted a drag on economic activity across many sectors, stressing that the present administration would address the problem. The unpaid obligations, she listed, include arrears owed pensioners, salary and promotion arrears to civil servants; obligations to contractors and suppliers. Others include funds owed exporters under the Export Expansion Grant Scheme and unpaid refunds to state governments for projects undertaken on behalf of the Federal Government. There is no doubt that paying the affected workers their entitlements will reduce the nation’s domestic debt put at over N2trillion. Now that the government has agreed to settle these debts owed to the ex-Nigeria Airways workers and sundry contractors, it should do so without further delay. Paying the local debts will invariably stimulate economic growth. The accumulation of domestic debts was very unhealthy for the economy. It was a ticking time bomb that was bound to explode soon as witnessed during the economic recession that engulfed the country in the last two quarters of 2016 and up till the last quarter of 2017.
Matters were also made worse by the unconscionable delay in the settlement of the terminal entitlements of retired and disengaged workers of key government agencies such as the Nigeria Airways, which was formally liquidated in 1999. Since then, the travails of the ex-workers of the once thriving national airline were embarrassing and uncalled for.
The plan by the present administration to offset these debts, even though belated, is commendable. It is also to assure Nigerian workers that having worked conscientiously and retired or disengaged, they deserve their entitlements. If the benefits of retired workers are paid, it will encourage more productivity among other workers, which will impact positively on the economy, too. The efforts of the affected workers in the service of the country must never go unrewarded.
As the government plans to redress the long disservice done to the ex-Nigeria Airways workers, we urge it not to renege on its promise. It must pay the workers their entitlements expeditiously. The said workers and their numerous dependants must have been subjected to untold suffering. Further delays in settling the outstanding entitlements would be unacceptable and inimical to the ailment it was supposed to cure in the first place.
Coming out of recession, the economy needs all the stimulation the planned payments of the entitlements to workers and local contractors would bring. Since some of the benefits of ex-Nigeria Airways workers would be paid through promissory notes and bond issuance, government must ensure that it is not marred by bureaucracy. We hope that the proposed mode of settling the debts will not be an impediment. Every effort must be made to avoid any negative outcome in the process, as that would be frustrating to the beneficiaries.
Therefore, the government must tidy up all the processes that would lead to the attainment of this laudable objective and ensure that the entitlements reach the beneficiaries, especially the former workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways and finally settle the matter once and for all.