Aviation workers flay minister for ‘poor handling’ of sector, failed promises

[FILE PHOTO] Nigeria’s Aviation minister Hadi Sirika

Aviation workers, yesterday, flayed their Minister, Hadi Sirika, for alleged poor handling of the sector and failure to deliver on the promises made since inception of office about six years ago.

The workers were miffed by the one-man show posture of the minister in running the sector, manifesting in absence of statutory governing boards of aviation agencies.

The workers, in commemoration of 2021 Workers’ Day said the untidy arrangement robbed them of better welfare, conditions of service and general wellbeing of the industry as earlier pledged by the minister.

Sirika had on assumption of office rolled out an aviation development masterplan, which has the launch of a new national carrier, concession of the airports, aircraft leasing company and maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) organisation among others in focus.

President of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ben Nnabue, expressed the union’s frustration over the treatment meted to workers of aviation agencies by the Salaries and Wages Commission and the Head of Service.

Nnabue said: “We have persistently pointed out the folly of one-man-show in the governance of the sector. As we all know, there has being no governing boards for all the agencies in aviation, and the CEOs being direct employees of the Minister of Aviation, and the Minister being the Chairman of all the so-called Interim Boards, the affairs of the entire aviation industry has been contrived to be totally in the hands of one man.

“This is extremely dangerous, preposterous and truly objectionable. All our protestations on the subject over the past years have fallen on deaf ears. That stakeholders in the industry have tolerated this circumstance for all of six years is incomprehensible.”

Nnabue added that whereas a State government like Akwa Ibom has since successfully launched its airline without any fanfare, “our country has woefully failed in its attempt to birth a national carrier after over 10 years of labour and colossal financial waste.

“The proposed aircraft leasing company, national aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility and aerotropolis development, all flagship programmes of this federal administration, have all suffered paralysis, despite massive support from all stakeholders and informed Nigerians.

“They all followed the same path; bitten by the bug of hidden agenda, suffered the ailment of ill-motive to death, presently in the coffins of infidelity to the national cause, and waiting to be buried in the grave of ‘onemanism’. I enjoin all NUATE members to join hands in prayer for a better tomorrow for our dear nation’s aviation industry.”

The union leader also spoke on the concession being championed by the minister, describing it as a travesty aimed at draining the nation.

“The case of selective airports concession is already well told. Our irreversible opposition to the unjustifiable programme is based on unassailable evidence of unwholesomeness and is well documented. We call on the National Assembly, the Federal Executive Council and the Presidency to work together to put a halt to the travesty called airports concession and save our dear Nation from further draining of the national treasury.”

On the welfare of workers, he said: ”We have become tired of begging for our rights in respect of the stated issues of Conditions of Service and minimum wage, which has been denied aviation workers for two years running. And we have lost our patience on the matter.

“Accordingly, all our branches in the agencies concerned should follow the example of NCAA and convene their respective Joint Action Committee (JAC) meetings to mobilise for industrial action, as several ultimatums on the matter have gone by without any result whatsoever. Actions will be ordered from May 17, 2021,” he said.

President of the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Kabir Yahaya Gusau, urged members not to be tired of pressing for a better sector, saying the road to ideal labour relations and impeccable welfare were still far ahead.