The Federal Government has released N22.68 billion for the settlement of retirement benefits of former workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL). The other N20 billion is for the revitalization of public universities in line with demands of the Academic Staff of Universities (ASUU).
Newly appointed Finance Minister Hajia Zainab Ahmed, who broke the news yesterday to reporters in Abuja noted that the initial submission regarding the retirement benefits of ex-NAL workers in liquidation was N78 billion.
“The amount 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.
“At the end of the verification, the sum of N45 billion was agreed as the total retirement benefits of the affected staff.”
The former workers have not been paid their retirement benefits for the past 15 years despite the liquidation which inflicted on them inconveniences.
“This unfortunate situation”, Hajia Zainab 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 per cent of N45.3 billion total entitlements of the ex-workers of Nigeria Airways limited in liquidation.”
To ensure the implementation of the President’s directives in line with extant financial rules, the minister constituted a committee to be headed by the PICA Secretary.
To serve on the committee are: representatives of the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, ministries of Aviation and Finance, the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), Union of ex-NAL workers and Budget Office of the Federation.
The Committee has been mandated to physically verify the claims of the Pension and relevant next-of-kin before the release of the funds to the genuine beneficiaries.
On the funds released for the revitalization of public universities, Hajia Ahmed stated that the ASUU signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Government 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.
“To revitalise 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 will be released to the beneficiary universities in line with the established criteria used by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC). “The government 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 Emmanuel Osodeke wondered why government was releasing only N20 billion, which was to have been a palliative since September 2017.
He said: “What we expect to be discussing now is how to properly fund public universities sustainably without recourse to national budgets.”