Aviation workers threaten to stop Nigeria Air

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The proposed National Carrier, Nigeria Air
The proposed National Carrier, Nigeria Air

Olayinka Abioye, the general secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, has expressed the union’s plan to truncate the birth of the new carrier if their demands are not met.

On Wednesday, Hadi Sirika, Minister of State for (Aviation) Transport, unveiled the name and logo of the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, at aviation show in Farnborough, London.

But in an interview with Independent, Mr Abioye warned that until the government paid the final severance package of the staff of the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways, the unions in the sector would ensure that the plan did not come to fruition.

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Mr Abioye said that the severance package of the former workers must be paid in full before the government could commence a new national carrier, stressing that the government had not been fair to the workers.

He also explained that the planned new national carrier was contrary to government’s earlier position on the establishment of a new national carrier.

“We are not concerned about this new national carrier even though it is our baby with supposed benefits to the country.

“We are much more concerned about the families of the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways, some of whom have died.

“We are much more concerned about those who are living and managing to live and we are calling on this minister and government to speed up action in whatever capacity they can to ensure that Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance, make releases and pay our people. Enough is enough.

“The unions may truncate the process of the new national carrier; you can take that from me. There are so many fundamental issues begging for answers in some of these things.

“The national carrier that we are advocating for is not what they are planning now. We said private sector-driven national carrier, what is the problem with this government?

“The same government that said it didn’t have money to revamp our comatose airports is now spending $308 million as take-off grant for the airline.

“The same government wants to bring in six new aircraft from God-knows-where. Where then is the intervention of the private sector in all these?

“At what point is private sector going to be involved? These are issues that should be tackled. Then, how do you want to unveil a national carrier and take it overseas, leaving Nigeria behind. Those politicking are too much and we are not interested,” he said.

But the president of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, Illitrus Ahmadu, described the coming of the airline as a welcome development.

He insisted that Nigeria required a strong carrier to make use of its Bilateral Air Services Agreements, BASAs arrangements.

Dele Ore, former Director of Operations, Nigeria Airways, said the proposed airline looks like a profitable venture, but said for the airline to become profitable, the right people must be placed at the helms of affairs.

He, however, called on the government to pay the severance packages of the former workers of the national airline, saying most of the affected staff today, did put in their best to ensure the survival of the airline, but it was ran aground by government and its appointees.

“I don’t know if the money would be paid or not. When it will be paid, I don’t know. I have never worked in any other sector in my life. I came into aviation at the age of 22 years and I put in about 30 years and I am still here now. But, the industry has not been fair to some of us,” he lamented.