Workers seek government’s intervention to reposition sector

A cross section of aviation workers during a protest in Lagos

A cross section of aviation workers during a protest in Lagos

Petition FG over ‘illegal’ appointments

Workers in the aviation sector have urged the Federal Government to intervene in the crisis facing the sector.

Rising from a general meeting in Ilorin, Kwara State, the workers under the aegis of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) said though the hard times were not peculiar to aviation sector, but the government must be proactive in repositioning the sector as a potential mainstay of the economy.

While the employees again rejected the plan to concession major airports in the country, they identified some issues begging for government’s intervention particularly in the area of infrastructure.

In a related development, the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) has petitioned the Ministry of Transportation over “illegal” appointment and elevation of the current president of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN), Benjamin Okewu, urging the minister to urgently investigate the matter.

NUATE, at the conclusion of the National Executive Council meeting, observed that the current recession indeed affects all segments of the economy. The government must, however, remain focused in her quest for nation building, by engaging more in social dialogue with critical stakeholders in the country, and set the machinery in motion to deploy experts into freeing our economy from the jaws of economic recession.

General Secretary of the union, Olayinka Abioye, said his members still opposed the plot by the Honourable Minister, State Aviation, to concession four Nigerian Airports considered as cash cows of the entire 22 operating airports in the country, “without recourse to extant rules, due process, social dialogue with stakeholders and other extant agencies connected with civil aviation in and out of Nigeria.”

“We have, therefore, called for immediate stoppage of the concession of Nigerian airports, to avoid industrial crisis that may arise as the government has failed to carry along stakeholders on this germane matter,” Abioye said.

In place of concessioning that will allegedly lead to more job losses, the union said it was high time the minister had seen to welfare improvement and probity in appointment procedure.

Following the verification exercise carried out by government at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other aviation agencies, to determine proper structural balance in recruitment and placement of (certain political) appointees into positions in these agencies, the union demanded full implementation of the committees report already approved by the Minister, to ensure proper staff placement, avoid current career disconnect, mistrust and correct the administrative incongruities caused by the irregular employment of these political jobbers.

They called for embargo on recruitment of personnel on grade levels 10 and above at FAAN, “as such exercise has become a drain pipe in the fortunes of the authority.”

“Considering the vital regulatory responsibilities of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and its primary duty towards the well being of its employees, the NEC in-session condemns most profoundly the continued failure of its Management to enhance and engender human capital development through routine trainings and recurrent retraining of its personnel, which has become paramount in the discharge of their responsibilities to airline operations and inspections.

“NEC hereby demands that all approved trainings (both local and international) be reinstated and commenced within one month, as the union will have no alternative than take this matter to higher authorities;

“The NEC-in-session, observes and frowns at the deplorable state of affairs in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) whereby office infrastructures had decayed and become obsolete to the extent that pieces of furniture, working tools, including computers, photocopiers and accessories have taken flight in the NCAA.

“Employees had to resort to the use of their personal laptops for official use, trek distances to photocopy documents at a grave security risk to the aviation house, where canteens facilities are lacking in other regions.

“Aside this glaring unwholesome and pathetic situation, the NEC in-session, demands urgent explanation from the management of the NCAA as to its failure and or inability to provide office accommodation to its employees at the Port Harcourt International Airport. It was established that workers on duty each day had to rotate sitting in the available waiting office space, while some had to malinger around waiting for a chair or table to work.”

It would be recalled that the outgoing president of ATSSSAN, Okewu, was recently transferred from the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria to Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Lagos, much to the displeasure of other unions like National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) and the Nigeria Aviation Professionals Association (NAPA).

Besides the grouse that Okewu was already due to leave ATSSSAN office, the unions alleged that his secondment from NCAT to AIB was not in line with the civil service rule and therefore a fraud.

It was alleged that not only was Okewu elevated from Grade Level (GL) 12 in NCAT to GL 15 at AIB, the process side-stepped two administrative officers of GL 14 in the Bureau, for the beneficiary to assume the office of Human Resource Director at the AIB. Okewu’s eligibility for the office was questioned, citing that a Principal Planning Officer at NCAT could not have legally assumed AIB office of HR Director.

The petition signed by the Deputy General Secretary of the association, Umoh Ofonime, stated: “We consider this unwholesome situation to be an under-the-table arrangement by both the Commissioner and Mr. Okewu, and is a subversion of public service rules, an affront on the delegated powers of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, a calculated effort to stultify the progression of other hard working staff of AIB, an abuse of the powers of the Commissioner of the Bureau, and a clandestine and wicked scheme to unleash terror on perceived enemies of the Commissioner, which has already commenced since the coming of Mr. Okewu,” the petition read in part.

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