November 28, 2022

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) said its compulsory contribution to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) is preventing it from paying the severance packages of N1.8 billion to the former staff of the Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL) as agreed with their unions in 2018.

The BPE also said that all entreaties to Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to ensure the release of the funds proved abortive.

The BPE in a letter signed by Mr. Taibudeen Oduniyi, the Director for Post Transaction Management, dated October 11, 2022 with the reference number: BPE/PTM/NUATE/11/2022/M10.01, addressed to the General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Ocheme Aba and obtained by our correspondent, purported that its contribution to the TSA stopped it from fulfilling the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reached with the former workers in 2018.

The Federal Government in 2015 through its policy had compelled all Ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to contribute 25 per cent of their revenues to the TSA.

However, a source close to the government, confided to our correspondent over the weekend that government had in the middle of this month, gone ahead to increase the contribution to 40 per cent, thereby adding more burdens to the MDAs. 

The BPE reached the agreement with the former 982 staff of SAHCOL on November 2, 2018, after which the bureau set up of a Negotiation Committee to ensure the implementation of the MoU.

But, the bureau regretted that the Federal Government’s policy, which compelled all agencies, departments and ministries to contribute to the TSA was “disabling” it from implementing the agreement.

According to the letter, the BPE had written Ahmed for fund to settle the retrenched workers, but without success.

The letter reads in part: “In the light of the foregoing, it has become expedient to update you on our modest efforts to bridge communication gap from the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we signed with you on November 2, 2018 to the setting up of the Negotiating Committee and our Director-General‘s willingness to offer to pay the redundancy as opposed to the stand of the Chairman of SAHCOL. It is evident that if we have the resources, this would have been a forgone issue.

“Also recall that at the inception of this administration in 2015, all funds of government agencies and MDAs were swept into the Treasury Single Account (TSA), thus disabling us financially. Given this scenario, our only option was to write to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning for funds to settle you, which we did via our memo on May 19, 2022.

“We have employed several persons to assist and our last being a visit to one of the Directors with the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation on Friday 7, 2022. We are not relenting and any support from your end will be highly appreciated.”

The BPE appealed to the workers to show more understanding in getting the issue resolved.

However, there are strong indications that the workers who had been sacked since 2010 by the new owners of SAHCOL (now Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO Plc), may cause industrial unrest in the sector any moment soon.

One of the former workers who didn’t want his name in print, told our correspondent over the weekend in Lagos that they were already mobilising their members through the industry unions to organise a protest in the sector in November.

The former workers said: “We have waited enough. We were layed off since 2010. We have taken all the steps to ensure that we were paid as agreed, but unfortunately, we are yet to be paid.

“The BPE in 2018, after agreeing that we were entitled to the several packages, promised to pay us, but four years after this, we are yet to get anything from the bureau. They are even asking us to assist them in getting the money out of the Ministry of Finance. How can we do that when we are not the government?”

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