Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
Following the threat by the nation’s aviation regulators to ban its operations in Nigeria, Turkish Airlines has complied with the federal government’s directive as it flew in into Abuja with a bigger aircraft A330 as against the usual smaller B737.
However, the suspension of the airline from Nigeria air space for treating Nigeria’s disrespectfully has received the commendation from the Director General of National Council for Arts and Culture(NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe.
Officials of the airline, alarmed by the prospect of losing their Nigerian market, held a meeting with the Nigerian authorities to pledge commitment to the conditions given to them in order to continue their operations in the country.
Consequently, the airline showed it commitment to improved service with the deployment of a bigger and more comfortable aircraft.
Before it deployed bigger aircraft, the airline had been notorious for its shabby treatment of Nigerian travellers over time, especially when they had to arrive their destinations without their checked-in luggage. This has always given rise to security issues at the airports with protests by affected passengers.
Reacting to the development, Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika described it as commendable, saying that the situation did not need to arise in the first place, with the airline waiting for the strong-arm handling before doing the right thing.
In a statement by the ministry’s Director, Public Affairs, James Odaudu, the minister said no foreign airline operator would henceforth be allowed to treat Nigerian travellers with disdain, warning others to take a cue from the Turkish airlines experience.
Sirika promised Nigerians better flying experiences as the nation’s aviation industry is set to undergo major developments in the coming years, with the implementation of the stakeholder-developed roadmap.
However, Runsewe described the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) intervention as bold and courageous, adding that time has come for all foreign airlines and other service providers in Nigeria to respect and treat Nigerians decently.
Last week, NCAA after several complains from Nigerians travelling public, rolled out the hammer to suspend Turkish airline for giving Nigerians who travel with them nightmares by not flying in their luggage with them.
Runsewe said that strong statements and punitive measures as rolled out by NCAA would serve as a deterrent to other airlines operating in Nigeria who only believed that Nigerians money was their prime focus and not service to the people.
“I wish to align myself with this courageous and bold statement by NCAA suspending Turkish airline from flying into Nigeria and pray that other arms of government with over sight functions over foreign service institutions and operators, should boldly come out to protect Nigerians from foreign organisations which treat us as slaves”.
Runsewe further stated that his agency would collaborate with other federal government institutions in Nigeria to ensure that Nigerians were protected and the culture of our people respected.
He added that his eyes would be focused on another foreign airline which the Supreme Court of Nigeria recently found guilty of deboarding a Nigerian student and to which the court ruled that the aircraft of that airline must be impounded if they refused to pay relevant fines to the students and his family.
“ As much as we want to see foreigners do business in Nigeria, it must be done within the ambience of law and international best practices. I find it very sad and disturbing that most of these foreign operators would obey the laws of their lands but will come to Nigeria to take advantage of our people, so i think that time has come for us to demand that the laws of Nigeria be respected and our people given the utmost respect from the operators of these foreign airlines”, he said.
Runsewe, who is also the President African region for the World Craft Council (WCC) further called for a speedy restoration and come back of our national airline in order to arrest this uncomplementary attitude to Nigerians.