The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) has expressed concern about the likely loss of jobs occasioned by the withholding of $464 million of airlines’ funds.
In a letter to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika signed by NUATE General Secretary, Ocheme Aba disclosed the ugly situation of hundreds of millions of dollars earned by foreign airlines operating in Nigeria, but which they have been unable to repatriate due to Nigeria’s foreign exchange challenges has already done colossal collateral damage to Nigeria’s image.
Aba noted that the union felt obliged to mention the threat to the employment and livelihood of thousands of workers of the foreign airlines should there resort to further significant reductions, or outright shutdown, of operations.
Appealing to the Minister to wade into the matter, Aba said being the trade union to which all workers in the foreign airlines belong, they have a huge stake in the imbroglio which without question, is much higher than most other stakeholders.
His words, “We must also mention the concomitant losses (not excluding jobs) that would accrue to several service providers who are dependent on, almost entirely, on the foreign airlines – ground handling, inflight catering, logistics, aviation security, etc.
“This, unfortunately, is already visible from the reductions of operations that have come into effect in the past weeks resulting from the impasse. It is important to state that we are very mindful of the current difficulties being experienced by the State with regard to the acute shortage of foreign exchange earnings. We also recognize that there are no straight fixes available”.
“But, in view of the apparent calamity that will surely befall the nation if the situation is not ameliorated quickly enough, we urge you to prevail on the Federal Government to take extraordinary measures to resolve the quagmire. Such a measure could include the use of crude oil swap to defray the backlog in the first instance”.
“The ugly situation of hundreds of millions of dollars earned by foreign airlines operating into Nigeria, but which they have been unable to repatriate due to Nigeria’s foreign exchange challenges has already been blown out by local and foreign media, bringing colossal collateral damage to Nigeria’s image.
“We find it ineluctable to weigh into the matter, being the trade union to which all workers in the foreign airlines belong. As such our stake in this imbroglio is, without question, much higher than most other stakeholders”.
“First of all, knowing who you are convinces us that this unpleasant situation must have preoccupied you already and that your office must already have been working very hard to find a workable solution. Secondly, being that you are, yourself, an aviation professional means that we need not bore you with enumerating the many dangers the continuation of this very adverse situation poses to the health of the aviation sector, the national economy, and Nigeria’s standing in the comity of nations”.
He urged the Minister not to be weighed down by the enormity of this, and other, problems presently mitigating the sector’s projected growth, urging, “We offer our hand of support, whatever that counts for, at this very trying time. We equally make ourselves available for any stakeholders meeting convened to address the matter. And we are hopeful that God helping we shall overcome”.
On Monday, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed assured that their over $464 million stuck funds would be released as the Minister of Information said the government was working on resolving the matter.
The Minister, who embarked on a guided tour of the new Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos said relevant authorities of the government have escalated action on the issue assuring that very soon the matter will be history.