Turkish Airlines to Resume Airlifting of Stranded Nigerian Passengers

Chinedu Eze

The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has brokered peace between the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Turkish Airlines.

This, it was learnt would allow the airline to begin the airlift of Nigerian passengers who have been stranded at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos since Tuesday following the picketing of the airline by the union.

This is coming as the European carrier alleged that it sacked its seven staff, which incurred the wrath of the union, because they were engaged in fraudulent ticket racketeering to the tune of $600, 000.

With the NCAA intervention, NUATE has temporarily agreed to shelve further interruption of Turkish Airlines operations in Lagos and Abuja to allow the airlift of stranded passengers both inbound and outbound from across the world.

The agreement was reached  after a meeting with the representative of the acting Director General Civil Aviation, Mr. Michael Achimugu who is also the Director, Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, NCAA.

Achimugu had on Wednesday evening after meeting with the Country Manager of Turkish Airlines in Nigeria promised to meet with the union on Thursday to resolve the impasse.

The meeting had representatives of NUATE led by its General Secretary,  Ochema Aba, the Lagos Regional Manager NCAA, Mrs Bukola Teriba, among others.

Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines has accused its sacked seven Nigerian staff of engaging in various ticket racketeering to the tune of $600,000 in 2023, thereby causing it serious financial losses within the period.

The airline in a statement by its Media Relations Department, also alleged that the leadership of NUATE might be taking sides with the sacked workers, who after disciplinary process, were found culpable of corrupt practices against the airline.

The airline regretted that despite the involvement of the union in the disciplinary committee, which indicted the seven workers and led to the advice for them to resign from its establishment, the unions refused to sign off on disciplinary action to the erring members of staff.

According to the airline, NUATE was invited and acted as a member of the disciplinary committee against the erring employees, where it was established, after the presentation of evidence detailing the employees’ wrongdoings, that they were liable for gross misconduct and ought to be dismissed.

The statement hinted that after the conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings, the airline gave the employees the option to resign voluntarily in which three out of the seven indicted staff complied with.

It, however, said that four out of the seven staff who were indicted and had initially showed interest in resigning from the employment of the airline, later declined to do so.

According to the airline, the union despite the clear and evidence of wrongdoing against it by the sacked staff, still threatened to paralyse its operations in Nigeria by way of industrial action if the former employees were not reinstated.

Turkish Airlines expressed surprise that NUATE despite the many evidences against the erring staff, still expected it to ignore these “illegal behaviours and actions,” saying that these were contrary to its transparency and management principles.

The airline added: “Premised on the threat of industrial action issued by NUATE by notices dated February 28, 2024 and March 25, 2024, the airline instituted proceedings in Suit No.: NICN/LA/24/2024 – Turkish Airlines Incorporated v The registered Trustees of the NUATE, seeking to determine the legality of the union’s (threatened) actions, among other things.

“After the institution of this suit at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) and after service had been effected on the union on February 9, 2024 and while motions for injunction were pending before the court, NUATE proceeded to execute their threats to picket.”

According to the airline, on March 26, 2024, NUATE members for two hours, barricaded its check-in stations at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), thereby preventing its passengers from boarding to their various destinations.

The airline explained that it took the intervention of the airport authorities to prevent NUATE from causing a complete breakdown of law and order at the airport on the said day.

Besides, the airline emphasised that the action of the union prompted NICN to once again issue formal notices of injunction restraining NUATE and its affiliates from conducting any industrial action in such a way as to disrupt its business on April 30, 2024.

Turkish Airlines reiterated that since it commenced flight services to Lagos in 2006, it had continued to put the interest of its passengers and employees first.

It insisted that it had always encouraged its employees to participate in any union of their choose, while also seeking harmonious working relationship with all governmental and non-governmental bodies in the country.

Turkish Airlines declared that it had no tolerance for illegal and wrongful actions and emphasised that it would take similar action against such practices in the future no matter who was involved.

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