By Sade Williams, Travel Port
An , who also doubles as president of Aviation Round Table (ART), Gabriel Olowo, has punched holes in federal government preference for foreign advisers at the expense of local professionals in the matter of the proposed national air carrier.
He specifically condemned government for setting aside the sum of N500 million for transaction advisers, in the budget, saying that a little of such an amount of money if allocated to technical professionals in the country would give the government appropriate advice on how to go about the formation of a befitting national carrier for the country.
Olowo also criticised the federal government for earmarking N8.5 billion for the suspended national carrier project, Nigeria Air in the 2019 budget proposal to the National Assembly.
At the launch of a book, ‘The Learned Commander’, written by Dele Ore, a former captain and director of operations of the liquidated Nigeria Airways, in Lagos, Olowo maintained that the government was not following the right path in establishing a new national carrier for the country and urged it to consult with local professionals in the sector.
“I read it somewhere that the Federal Government proposed another N8.5 billion for the establishment of a new national carrier for Nigeria in the 2019 budget proposal to the National Assembly. Out of this money, N500m was set aside for Transaction Advisers.
“If you give the N500m to people like Dele Ore and co, they will advice you better on how to have a befitting national carrier. However, ART as a body will continue to fight for the interest of the former staff of Nigeria Airways. We will continue to drum it to the ears of the government that what is due to them is paid,” he said in reference to staffs of the former national carrier who are still being owed arrears of salaries, pension and gratuity.
The book author, Ore, while speaking to journalists, expressed sadness over the liquidation of Nigeria Airways, almost 16 years ago, saying that the staffs were poorly treated by government.
He insisted that the government was wrongly advised on the liquidation of the airline, adding that another national carrier may not berth until all the former staff were properly remunerated by the government.
He explained that late Umaru Yar’Adua paid five years severance packages of the retired staff, while President Goodluck Jonathan who took over from him refused to pay the staff of the liquidated carrier.
He, however, lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for paying a part of the severance package, but lamented that he and a few others who retired before the airline was liquidated were still not properly paid their dues.
He said: “Nigeria Airways was all I know in my entire life. In fact, someone boasted that once they remove an aeroplane from me, I will be empty. I retired shortly before the airline was liquidated by the Federal Government. The government was ill-advised. It was a costly mistake. To liquidate the airline and not settling the staff was another crime against the staff.
“However, former President Umaru Yar’Adua did a bit by paying the five years severance packages, but Jonathan who was his vice when he took over did not do anything for the workers.
“But, what the government paid recently was just the tip of the ice berg. I for one, I have not been settled. I only received a part of what I am entitled to. I however say kudos to the President (Buhari), but more still needed to be done. This has allowed me to launch my book, which I have been writing in the past eight years. This is my ninth book. The book would be launched properly on March 28, 2019.”
Ore however attributed non-adherence to business contracts by airline operators in Nigeria for the depleted aircraft fleet in recent time.