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NAHCO ex-workers in industrial court over N1.13b severance benefit

By Wole Oyebade
14 November 2022   |   2:45 am
Former workers of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc have approached the National Industrial Court to determine their N1.13 billion severance package.

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Former workers of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc have approached the National Industrial Court to determine their N1.13 billion severance package.

The estimated benefits have been in protracted dispute among the workers, NAHCO, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).

NAHCO


The Guardian, about two years ago, reported the face-off between the NAHCO management and about 700 former workers, over N1.13 billion worth of severance package paid by the company to the workers after NAHCO was privatised in 2005.

While NAHCO Plc management claimed that the sum was a loan and due for repayment by the government, the workers said NAHCO had no legitimate claim to the benefit.

At the recent hearing by the Industrial Court, Lagos, Justice Elizabeth Oji, dismissed the application of the defendants’ counsels that the litigants lack the locus standi to initiate the court process, adding that they (claimants) do not represent the entirety of the ex-workers.

The resumed hearing of the case was subsequently fixed for February 21, 2023.

Counsel to the former workers, Jude Chukwu of Joe Nwokedi Chambers, explained that the motion filed by the defendant challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter on the ground that the claimant does not have the consent and authority of the majority of former NAHCO staff to represent them.

“But we said no. Not only do they have the authority of the majority, but they also have the authority of almost every former NAHCO staff member. Not just that, for you to bring an application of this nature, you must be a member of such a group. The court agreed with us that they don’t have the authority to challenge the people in the process and struck out their application.

“This matter has been adjourned for trial and hopefully, by the next adjourned date, we won’t have any other infringement. Even though from the look of things, the BPE is saying that they have an application that is not before the court. For me, it is not valid until we see such an application. And if they serve us, we respond accordingly,” Chukwu said.

The attorney alleged that counsels to the BPE, PTAD, and NAHCO were working to truncate the case. “They want to terminate this case. They don’t want the court to hear the grievances of these people. That is what gives strength to this case. We believe that by God’s Grace we will pass through this hurdle and the court will hear this case on its merit.

“The workers have suffered since 2005. Decades ago, they have been rendered homeless and went through some pain because of the fact that they have served this country and nobody wants to take care of them. This is their entitlement. It is not as if they are begging for it,” Chukwu said.

General Secretary of NAHCO Workers’ Forum, Sanmi Alademomi, lamented that the group had lost some of its members due to illnesses and that they could have used the money to take care of themselves.

Alademomi said: “Their families are languishing in abject poverty and others have been chased out of their homes. As a group, we shouldn’t just close our eyes; we should forge ahead, and go to the court of law to ensure that we get what rightly belongs to us. You can imagine someone who works for a company for 15-25 years being given N15, 000 as a benefit. Where is that done?

“We didn’t just go to court because we wanted to or because we wanted to make noise. We went to court after we sought the advice of our legal counsel. We looked at the pros and cons together and studied everything. We found that we needed to go to court. We believe in what we have on the ground and with our lawyer, we will get justice”.

The group, numbering over 700 persons, led by their National Coordinator, Funso Ojubanire and Alademoni, were disengaged from the service of NAHCO and retired when the company was privatised.

The majority of the former workers had put in up to between 15 and 20 years prior to the company’s privatisation, saying they were entitled to huge remuneration as payment for their terminal benefits.

They claimed to have suffered severe setbacks when PTAD allegedly shortchanged and eventually underpaid them after 15 years of a long wait in anticipation of the payment of their terminal benefits, which is “legally and lawfully” due to them as ex-workers of NAHCO Ltd.