Air Peace: Keyamo Restates FG’s Support for Nigerian Airlines Designated on International Operations

Festus Keyamo, Aviation Minister

Festus Keyamo, Aviation Minister

•NCAA condemns maltreatment of Nigerian passengers by Turkish Airlines

Chinedu Eze

The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, has said the federal government was in full support of all Nigerian airlines designated for international operations, including Air Peace which operates daily service from Lagos to Gatwick Airport, London.

This comes just as the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) yesterday, condemned the maltreatment of over 300 Nigerians booked to travel with Turkish Airlines from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, but were abandoned when the European carrier failed to airlift them to their destination.

Keyamo, was reacting to the recent report of UK Civil Aviation Authority (UKCAA) ramp inspection carried out on Air Peace aircraft on landing at Gatwick Airport, London, and leaked to the media against standard practice.

The report had indicated breaches by the airline, which had to do with the positioning of some devices in the aircraft to enhance flight operations and the pilot in command not heading to exit from the runway from a particular point as directed.

 But the Nigerian carrier has since corrected the infractions to the satisfaction of UK authorities.

The Minister, in reacting to the incident said, “My attention has been drawn to recent media publications citing some issues allegedly relating to possible safety violations at the Gatwick Airport by Air Peace Airlines raised by Safety inspectors of the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority.

“We want to re-iterate that Air Peace Airlines is the Nigerian flag carrier designated on the London route and as such enjoys the full backing and support of the Nigerian Government in its operation of that route.

 “I have been adequately and reliably briefed on the progress made thus far on this issue by the acting Director General of the NCAA.

“I am informed that the safety issues raised had since been adequately addressed by the Management of Air Peace and promptly closed to the satisfaction of the UK authorities.

 “I wish to state categorically that the Federal Government has full confidence in the continued safety of the operations of all Nigerian flag carriers designated on different international routes, including Air Peace and will continue to support and nudge them forward in pursuit of world class operational excellence.”

The Minister added:  “For the avoidance of doubt, the Federal Government of Nigeria has put its full weight and might behind all the local airlines designated on international routes in their endeavours in prosecuting these operations and shall provide all the necessary assistance and cooperation to ensure their success. Air Peace is no exception in this regard.”

Meanwhile, the NCAA has condemned the maltreatment of over 300 Nigerians booked to travel with Turkish Airlines from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos but were abandoned when the European carrier failed to airlift them to their destination.

 The NCAA said it would not hesitate to invoke relevant sections of the Civil Aviation Regulations to roll out stiff penalties and sanctions to Turkish Airlines over the airline’s maltreatment of Nigerians passengers stranded at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, following its failure to airlift them to Istanbul.

 The Authority said President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was miffed by the incident, directed the NCAA, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), and other relevant agencies to ensure that the rights of Nigerian passengers were protected anywhere they might be facing challenges.

NCAA spokesman and Director, Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, Mr. Michael Achimugu, who made this known when he addressed newsmen at the Lagos airport yesterday, said currently, the NCAA was meditating on the disagreement between the European carrier and aviation labour unions which picketed the airline’s operations at the Lagos Airport on Tuesday.

 Achimugu, said the federal government and its agencies would spare no efforts to call to order any airline that violates the rights of Nigerian passengers.

 According to him, the Director General of NCAA, Captain Chris Najomo, had in a virtual meeting on Tuesday from the United Kingdom initiated reconciliation moves between the Country Manager of Turkish Airlines and the unions, but the representative of the airline exhibited some traits of impudence, which the regulator deemed amounted to lack of regard for the system.

 He confirmed that over 300 passengers were trapped in the labour crisis, which prompted the airline to cancel flights on Tuesday, Wednesday and today, to resume operations tomorrow, after the unions have called off their three-day picketing of the airline’s operations.

 “The NCAA is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the inability of Turkish Airlines to operate flights out of Lagos Airport, due to the picketing of its operations by aviation unions; we will ensure that the rights of Nigerian passengers are not violated,” he said.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had on Tuesday commenced the picketing of Turkish Airlines in Lagos, in a bid for the carrier to reinstate staff that were dismissed, forced to abandon duty or forced to resign under duress, including those victimised for their union membership in 2020.

 The NLC in earlier notice of picketing of Turkish Airlines in Lagos, signed by its acting General Secretary, Chris Ufot, had stated that all affiliate unions in aviation are particularly charged to mobilise heavily for the picketing action without fail, adding that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) council was to stand by in case there becomes a need to escalate the matter to Abuja airport.

Achimugu later visited the stranded passengers at the new terminal of the international airport where he conveyed the message of NCAA Director General to the stranded passengers, aassuring that the authority would not rest until they were airlifted to their various destinations.

 The Director said “I assure you all that the NCAA is on top of your matter. We have met with officials of the Turkish Airlines today and we are working towards resolving the issues between the airline and the labour union to ensure that you are airlifted out this airport. The DG feels your pain, which is why we are here to attend to your plight.”

 Narrating his ordeal, a passenger, Fernando Obiekwe Ngozichukwu who resides in Guttenberg, Sweden said he was afraid of losing his job as a top official of Scandic Hotel as the company has been calling him to resume from his leave.

A Germany based construction worker, Charles Ifeanyi, also appealed to the federal government to intervene to save the situation, lamenting that the authority must not allow Nigerians to be maltreated anywhere in the world anyhow.

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