A couple of weeks back this govt announced the release of N22bn for the payment of pensions and entitlements of workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways. As usual, I adopted a wait and see approach. With this govt, that’s simple wisdom.
And then today I’m hearing that pension verification for those workers will be between Oct 17 and 22 or something like that. They’re serious o, they mean to pay o! That’s really great! Anyone who knows anyone who is a Nigeria Airways pensioner will appreciate that release. Thousands of families were thrown into sudden penury when the airline went down. These payments will provide succor in these dire times.
When OBJ’s govt liquidated Nigeria Airways in 2003, it commissioned a Judicial Panel of Inquiry headed by Justice Obiora Nwazota into the activities of the Nigeria Airways between January 1983 and December 1999 and among other things, to investigate how an airline that had a fleet of 32 aircraft in 1984 had shrunk to just three in 2000, heavily overstaffed and with more debts than anything else. The Panel’s report indicted 78 people including five former Ministers, many senior execs (Jani Ibrahim, Mohammed Joni and co) and bigwigs. etc. At this point, politics crept in and OBJ never did anything further, neither has any govt since then.
When people say ‘OBJ killed Nigeria Airways’, I just smile and sympathize with them. We live in times when many don’t even bother with the most basic verification of the simplest of facts before swallowing.
Nigeria Airways died in cumulative installments over many administrations. Let me tell you how Buhari’s 1983-1985 dictatorship specifically contributed. That govt sold an airworthy A310 aircraft for paltry sum against expert advice. Justice Nwazota Panel directed that AVM Koshoni (then Minister of Aviation) and Bernard Banfa (then MD Nigeria Airways) be compelled to pay back several millions of dollars being the cost of an A310 aircraft. Besides, the Banfa executive sacked many staff trained by KLM. The rot had fully set in by then. That’s why when Buhari and his followers say “past govts destroyed Nigeria”, informed minds just smile and be sorry for them.
Today, the same Bernard Banfa, a CPC and now APC chieftain sits on the board of the NDDC courtesy of the Buhari administration. You see how fraud and incompetence regenerate themselves over generations to calcify over time? You see Nigeria in Nigeria Airways?
A white paper was issued on that Justice Nwazota report in 2002. It is public document. If you read it, you will understand why Nigeria is like this. Mind you, the depth and extent of corruption in Nigeria Airways was so vast that it definitely encompasses many of these pensioners today. If truth be told, they also contributed to the destruction of Nigeria Airways.
Howbeit, I’m still happy for them. For those not found guilty by judicial enquiry or criminal investigation, I think they’re entitled to their pensions. Many have died for want of basics but for those alive, it will be like a second chance at life. But that is for those who can go through the screening process. Kudos to the govt.
And oh, the politics of it all is not lost on me.