Verification: No end in sight to Nigerian Airways pensioners’ woes

•As more life threatening situations recorded at centre

By Victor Ahiuma-Young& Monsuru Olowoopejo

For pensioners and ex-workers of the defunct Nigerian Airways, the ongoing verification and payment of their benefits which this week enters a second week, rather than bring succour, have actually worsened their woes.

Endless wait for verification by Nigeria Airways Pensioners

In fact, there were reports of two deaths between Tuesday and Thursday at the verification ground and their corpses were deposited at a public hospital in Ikeja.

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Apart from that, there were several cases of pensioners who slumped and fainted last week.

Since Monday October 22, the situation rather than lessened, has indeed worsened as the crowd trouping to the verification ground has been increasing by the day.

However, the federal government while extending the verification exercise that would have ended on Monday assured that the exercise would not end until every pensioner is verified.

Over one week that the exercise, commenced, the Lagos venue is yet to yet to experience seamless exercise as many still spent hours under the scorching sun waiting to complete the process.

Thos battling with health challenges were seen struggling to withstand the stress brought by the hitches accompanying exercise.

Among the challenges that have continued to confront the pensioners, is shortage of forms for bio-data and other necessary information.

On Thursday, two pensioners while waiting for the form under the scorching sun, slumped, were revived by their colleagues to avoid losing them as it was the case of two that had died earlier.

It was learned that in order not to lose another member, the pensioners quickly provided first aid treatment to them.

Speaking, Secretary, Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Nigerian Airways,  chapter, Segun Adeleke, decried the hardship members had been going through which led to some of them  slumping, expressing happiness that there  no causality recorded.

He said: “The pensioners, who slumped, have been treated and back on their feet to continue the processing of their entitlements.

Giving insight into the incident, one of the pensioner, Emmanuel Owolabi, informed that the victim arrived the centre at about 5am and had been battling to get the bio-data form under the sun for hours to no avail. It was stress that was responsible for the emergency case recorded.

While withholding the name, Owolabi lamented that five days after commencement of the exercise, those slated for first day of the exercise were yet to complete their verification.

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According to him, “the process is not encouraging. We have been here since 5am. And on my arrival, we were instructed to write our names at that time, I was registered as 140. It is pathetic that eight hours after, nothing has been done to ensure we are all captured. When I inquired on reasons for the delay, we were told that those for the first day were still been registered. And they will be starting from where they stopped. They started calling the names that were written a day before.”

EFCC, ICPC blamed    

Officials of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, were also blamed for the chaos as they were accused of always coming to the venue very late, saying the earliest they come to the venue is 11am leaving the pensioners stranded at the Lagos center.

The pensioners argued that even after arriving late, the capturing machines often breakdown.

Apparently frustrated with the persistent delay, a pensioner, Jude Amah, lamented: “I don’t know what EFCC is doing here. We are not trying to embezzle government fund. This is our money. We worked for it.  President Buhari has done his own part but those engaged for the exercise are not capable of the responsibility handed over to them.”

Another pensioner, Engr. Michael Agha, accused the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Nigerian Airways   chapter, of failing in their responsibility, saying, though the present administration brought some innovation but the union did not enlighten the EFCC officials thoroughly, saying “This is because they have become the only constrain affecting the exercise.

That is the only thing that has continued to pin me down here. Since day one, I have continued to spend 2,000 on transportation and others daily.”

Verification: Lamentation as Airways Pensioners sleep at center

According to Ademuyiwa Adeyemi, who described the process as very dehumanizing, said, “how can one explains that those that are expected to be verified on the first day are yet to complete their verification exercise on the fifth day, when their credentials are complete?  It is sad.   This is not the first time such money is paid. I remember that during late President Musa Yar Adua, the exercise was not cumbersome like this. The officials engaged for this exercise have made rubbish of the exercise.”

Union blames retirees 

But Chairman of the Union, Sam Nzene, faulted the pensioners’ allegations against the anti-graft agencies, stressing that the process had improved as against the first day of the exercise.

Nzene said: “It has been mixture of good and bad. The server was bad. But by the second day, we started working and it has been improving daily.”

While disagreeing with his colleagues, he argued that the major challenge that had crippled the exercise was crowd control because the pensioners were eager to complete the exercise and receive their fund, said “It has been heartwarming and exciting after waiting for 15years.we hope that with this, those that are terminally I’ll will be able to treat themselves with the money received. And they move on with their life.   The challenges we have is crowd control. We aim to capture them but they just want to be captured quickly. I have told them that this could affect prompt completion of the process considering the time limit.