Tens of Air Nigeria workers took to the premises of the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos, on Friday, to protest their recent sack and press for their entitlements from the company.

The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Jimoh Ibrahim, had earlier announced the shut down of flight operations for a year and the immediate sack of about 800 of its workers, with a small fraction to remain on their jobs.

The airline’s flight operations were scheduled to shut down by Monday, September 10, 2012.

Bearing placards and chanting solidarity songs, the protesters called for the payment of their terminal benefits.

They also accused the company of owing them four months’ salary and failing to remit the pensions and cooperative funds being deducted from their salaries to the relevant authorities.

In addition, the workers claimed that the company was owing its Cooperative Society N56 million in members’ personal savings.

The President of National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Isaac Balami, described the situation as “surprising in the 21st century.”

“First of all, there was a time they spent two years, no worker went on leave. You can imagine a pilot, an aircraft engineer, for good two years no rest,” he said.

“Secondly, they can’t even access health insurance. They are paying tax, they don’t have tax clearance. A particular amount is being deducted from their salary every month and this money is not remitted to the purse of the cooperative society.”

Also, the protesters accused Ibrahim of selective payment of staff, alleging that some members of staff were recently paid their May salaries.

Balami added that the company management asked workers to denounce NAAPE membership or fail to get their benefits.

“It’s either you are filling this form or you don’t get your benefits or it’s a sign that you are not loyal. As far as we are concerned, Jimoh Ibrahim or the management of Air Nigeria has not fired anybody yet,” he said.

However, the march took the protesters to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) premises, where they lodged their complaints and delivered a letter requesting their entitlements.

Olusola Adetu, Special Technical Adviser to NCAA’s Director General, Harold Demuren, promised to forward their letter to the appropriate quarters.

“We have held series of meetings with your CEO (Ibrahim) trying to resolve this issue, you are all witnesses. I promise that the contents of your letter, those ones that fall within the purview of NCAA regulatory functions, we would handle,” he said.

“But those that have to do with labour disputes, we’ll advise that it be referred to the labour arbitration panel.”

The protesters, however, urged the Agency to come up with a positive response for them within a week.

Recently, Ibrahim had a similar situation with Newswatch magazine staff, where he also sits as the Chairman. However, following a lot of pressure from the workers and the public, Ibrahim reportedly paid off the workers.

Closure strands passengers

Meanwhile, popular comedian, Julius Agwu and his crew are among loads of passengers apparently stranded in the United Kingdom as a result of the Air Nigeria debacle.

A tweet by the comedian “Is it a Crime to support nigerian bizness, we flew AirNig to Lond, now we can?t return cos #JimohIbrahimOFR ordered a closure” lamented his predicament. As of press time, he was yet to return to Nigeria.

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