Debt of Defunct Nigerian Airways May Haunt New Nigeria Air

Gallivant Africa

Former employees of defunct Nigeria Airways (WT, Lagos) are petitioning against the establishment of new national carrier Nigeria Air demanding NGN33 billion naira (USD79.3 million) in outstanding pension and severance payouts, reports New Telegraph.

Their reaction is in response to the recent public notice by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that Nigeria Air had applied for an Air Transport License (ATL) to operate scheduled and non-scheduled passenger and cargo services within and outside Nigeria. The NCAA invited any objections to be lodged within 28 days.

This followed the March 7 public notice by the Federal Aviation Ministry inviting bids for the establishment of the new national carrier, including 49% equity shareholding from a private sector consortium including an international airline and 46% shareholding from Nigerian financial and institutional investors. All responses to the Request For Proposals must be submitted before May 10, 2022.

The former Nigerian Airways employees who asked not to be named told New Telegraph that NGN33 billion of a NGN78 billion (USD187.6 million) federal government (FG) compensation pay-out was still outstanding.

They had lost faith in their union representatives to protect their interests. They accused leaders of the Aviation Unions Ground Alliance (AUGA) of having lost interest in pursuing their cause after having pocketed as commission most of a previous NGN45 billion (USD108.2 million) disbursement.

Consequently, the group planned to petition the NCAA not to issue Nigeria Air’s ATL until the FG had paid its dues.

“We are not against the setting up of Nigeria Air. What we are asking is that they should pay us what is left of what we are owed before a new national carrier comes on board,” a spokesman for the group said. “We would have left this to our unions to do, but they do not give updates on what is happening,” they added.

“We are demanding that workers of the liquidated airline who are still alive should be put on a pension scheme. The liquidation of Nigeria Airways was at the instance of the government. We believe that the leadership of our unions has been compromised,” they said.

Wholly-state owned, Nigeria Airways went out of business in 2004, plagued by mismanagement, corruption, overstaffing, and a poor safety record. At the time of its closure, the airline was USD528 million in debt. In its heydays in the early 1980s, it had operated a fleet of 30 aircraft, which had shrunk to three at the time of its closure.

The company had been founded in 1958 after the dissolution of West African Airways Corporation (WAAC). It was rebranded in 1971, with the Nigerian government holding 51% until 1961 when it boosted its shareholding in the company to 100%

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