The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Ocheme Aba has said three major institutions are responsible for the insertion of “obnoxious clauses” in the six aviation agencies’ bills presently before President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
The inclusion of aviation industry and its agencies as essential services in the bills, had led to controversies in the sector since last Thursday.
This is as the National Assembly has advised the unions to sheath their swords and refrain from any action that may further put the aviation industry under distress.
Speaking with Nairametrics on phone on Tuesday, Aba suspected that the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, the National Assembly or the presidency were responsible for the inclusion of the aviation sector under essential services, which prohibits workers in the industry from embarking on any industrial action.
He explained that the issue to put the aviation industry under essential services was only mentioned in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Bill presented to the National Assembly during the November 2021 public hearing, but was severely kicked against by the unions.
He, however, wondered how the clause was inserted into the other five agencies in the sector without the input of industry players.
- “Since the power granted in the bills is to the Minister of Aviation and it is his interest, so, we can suspect that he inserted it there. But, the Ministry cannot unilaterally put those clauses there without the connivance or collaboration of either the National Assembly or the Presidency because those are the tripods that are involved in this matter.
- “It was only during the NCAA Act that the issue of essential services came up, but we drew the attention of the National Assembly to that matter. We told them that there was already the National Industrial Court ruling, which said that airlines do not render essential services, but they insisted on putting it there. This means they only wanted to show power and they lack the regards to the rule of law.”
Unions petition National Assembly
In a bid to address the grey area, Ocheme said that the industry unions had petitioned the National Assembly on the matter.
The union leader feared that President Muhammadu Buhari may give his assent to the bills before September 20, 2022, when the National Assembly is expected to resume recess.
He insisted that the unions would not go back on their plan to halt activities in the aviation industry in the next two weeks if the “strange clause” was not expunged from the bills by the government.
House of Representatives confirm petition
- Also, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji, Chairman House Committee on Aviation in a telephone interview with Nairametrics, confirmed that the committee had received the petition jointly signed by the industry unions on the matter.
- Nnaji declared that the House of Representatives was always willing and ready to address any challenges brought before it by major stakeholders in the sector, especially the unions.
- He assured that the issue would be given an accelerated hearing immediately the National Assembly resumes from its recess on September 20.
- Nnaji appealed to the unions not to embark on any industrial action, especially at this delicate time in the industry.
- “We are always interested in whatever thing that would make the industry run smoothly. The unions have already written to us and we will address their fears when we resume after the recess,” he said.
Aviation minister denies obnoxious clauses
Also, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika denied ‘smuggling’ the clauses into the Bills.
His Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Dr. James Odaudu in a chat with Nairametrics directed the unions to contact the lawmakers who passed the bill or the Presidency.
According to him, it is “uncharitable” to accuse the minister, whom he said had always engaged the unions, of smuggling the clauses in the new Act.
He said that should not be enough reason to shut down the airports and urged them to consider the economic losses that such an action would trigger.
- Recalled that the unions; National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), ATSSSAN, National Association of Aircraft Pilots, Engineers ( NAAPE) and the Amalgamated Unions of Public Corporations, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Employees (AUPCTRE) Thursday last week alleged that some of the powers of the Minister of Labour and Productivity were usurped and taken over by the Minister of Aviation in the new aviation agencies bills for assent.
- The unions had insisted that the designation of services rendered by the aviation agencies as essential in which industrial action should be prohibited was not a subject that came under discussion at any time during the current processes of the bills.
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