Acting Finance Minister of Finance Zainab Ahmed

The federal government on Wednesday said it will pay 50 per cent of entitlements owed ex-staff of the defunct Nigerian Airways in 2018 and pay the balance next year.

The finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, revealed this on Wednesday while briefing journalists after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja.

She also at a separate forum on Wednesday said the 2018 payment will commence next week.

After the FEC meeting, the minister explained that though the formal approval given for payment of the entitlements was N45 billion, due to paucity of funds, President Muhammadu Buhari only gave approval for the initial payment of 50 per cent (N22.6 billion).

“We hope in 2019, to pay the balance,” she said.

Meanwhile, the minister, who also spoke through the secretary, Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), Mohammed Dikwa, said some of the ex-workers may be paid their benefits next week.

However, to allow for the personal data of all former workers of the Nigeria Airways Limited to be captured, the ongoing verification exercise, she said, the exercise has been extended indefinitely in all the three centres across the country. The verification centres are located in Kano, Enugu and Lagos.

The official, who said this during her visit to one of the three verification centres, noted that the exercise will not end ”until everybody was captured”.

Ahmed said additional desks have been made available to address all complaints.

The minister appealed to all participants to be patient with the officials until they are all attended to.

The minister said over 6,000 former staff of the liquidated Nigeria Airways Limited spread across the three centres would be attended to during the period of the exercise.

She said about 40 per cent of the affected workers would be attended to in Kano centre, while 50 per cent and 10 per cent would be attended to in Lagos and Enugu centres respectively.

The PICA scribe said President Muhammadu Buhari had directed Mrs Ahmed, to release all the entitlements of the ex-workers to them.

“We are very much aware at the federal level of the suffering you people have undergone over the years. It is as a result of this that Mr President directed the Honourable Minister to immediately release funds for the ex-workers of the Nigerians Airways Limited,” Mr Dikwa said.

“Now the funds are ready, what is left for us to do here is to conduct that verification exercise, which started on Monday. The verification exercise will continue until such a time each and every one that is entitled is captured. I want you to be patient and orderly so that you get verified and get your entitlements latest by next week.

He assured those whose names were omitted that they would be addressed to ensure that all those entitled to the benefits were admitted, verified and paid accordingly.

Besides, Dikwa said, additional help desks dedicated for complaints have been established to allow affected workers to put down their details.

“As soon as the team reports back to Abuja next week we will address the matter with dispatch, while those who are deceased and/or their names omitted would be paid their entitlements

“We are going to look into the records and be sure that you are entitled and once that is ascertained, you will be paid,” he said.

Ahmed at the FEC briefing disclosed that the council granted approval for the issuance of $2.9 billion and other securities in Eurobonds from the international capital market, to enable the government implement the borrowing external plan of N849.67 billion equivalent of $2.786 billion which is provided for in the 2018 Appropriation Act.

The arrangement, she said, is to fund capital projects in 2018 Budget.

“We also as part of that, got approval to raise the sum of $82.54 million to bridge the shortfall of the 500 million Eurobond that matured on the July 12, 2018,” she said. “In addition to this approval for the issuance of Eurobond, we also got the approval for payment to transaction parties and their respective fees like settling bills and expenses.

“We have as parties for the transactions, two joint league managers, a combination of Citibank group as well as Standard Chartered Bank as joint league managers and FSB Merchant Bank as financial advisers; the White and Case LIP as legal managers and Ighodalo as legal advisers for Nigeria. The total cost for this advisory group is N374.618,889.”

In addition to the approval of the Eurobond, she said, there was also approval for livelihood of family improvement project in Niger Delta.

According to her, the project is called Life and D and involves $60 million that will be a combination of loans and grants. The projects will be implemented in the Niger Delta States: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers, the minister explained.

“However, when we reviewed the project in the nine states, we found that six of the states met their own requirements while three did not,” she said. “So, the three will be assisted to enable them improve and join the team in 2019.”

On capital release from 2018 budget, the minister said about two weeks ago, N460 billion was released for capital budget.

In respect of the Paris Club refunds, she said, Buhari has given approval for the payment of the last refund to the states but the approval came with some conditions ”which the government is trying to work out together with the states to meet”.

“Those conditions that Mr. President gave is that we must show that the states have used the previous refund for payment of salaries and they will use this one also for payment of salaries.

“The states that were not paid were Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Imo State because they had some deficiencies and the agency that is handling it is working to bridge the gap,” she said.

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