Aviation unions on Wednesday shut down the Murtala Muhammed International Airport II (MMA2) in protest over the sack of their workers.
They alleged that the workers were sacked following their indication of interest to participate in union activities.
The protesting unions are the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).
The protest has left passengers stranded as those about to catch early morning flights, and also airline officials with businesses in the terminal were denied access into the premises.
The protest also caused heavy vehicular traffic around the airport environment.
According to the management of the airport, the unions have defied court order restraining them from shutting down the airport.
The union executives, however, deny knowledge of any restraining order.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has identified the concession of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport and three others, as the next big project, after the successful rehabilitation work on the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Senator Sirika, disclosed this to Channels Television’s correspondent in Benue state, during the induction of mi-35m gunships by President Muhammadu Buhari, as the Ministry of Aviation partners the Nigerian Airforce on airport security, research and training programmes.
The minister urged Nigerians to trust the Federal Government in protecting their interest, as was the case with the Abuja Airport runway project. He also stressed that four airports; that of Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and Kano, are not up for sale but concession.
162 Nigerians stranded in Libya have voluntarily returned to the country.
The returnees comprising 132 males, 27 females and 3 children arrived the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos on Thursday aboard an airbus A320 aircraft.
Two of the returnees, who were in critical condition were immediately taken to hospital for medical attention.
According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the return was facilitated by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with the Swiss government and the Nigerian Embassy in Libya.
The federal government has announced plans to concession four major airports as part of efforts to develop and secure the aviation sector and diversify the nation’s economy.
Addressing aviation industry players in Abuja, the Minister of State for Aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika, announced that the airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt will be managed by private sector operators.
He also announced plans by the federal government to establish aviation development bank and an aviation university to provide funding and quality technical manpower for the industry.
It was the first aviation stakeholders’ forum since the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came on board.
The Minister reiterated the commitment of the federal government to fast track the development of the sector through public private partnership.
He used the occasion to announce the streamlining of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the creation of employment opportunities for Nigerian pilots.
Although the presentation of the Minister received an applause from the stakeholders, some of them expressed concerns about the activities of some agencies under the ministry.
Others appealed to the federal government to urgently address the challenges being faced in the industry.
The one day forum which attracted airline operators, pilots and captains of the aviation industry is aimed at strengthening the sector towards efficient service delivery.
A Federal Lawmaker and Chairman House Committee on Treaties and Agreements, Dayo Bush-Alebiosu, has explained the importance of the proposed Passenger Rights Bill in protecting Nigerians who commune by flight.
He was a guest of Rubbin’ Minds on Channels Television, where he spoke on efforts in the National Assembly to review goings on in the aviation industry. Mr Bush reiterated the view that Nigeria is not doing it right as far as the sector is concerned and this led to the development of the Passengers’ Rights Bill.
Sharing few of his personal experiences, Mr Bush-Alebioshu said that there are too many cases of passengers being taken advantage of by airlines and airport authorities, and this “nonsense” needs to stop.
Bush, who claimed to have been delayed at the airport close to 6 hours, also cited situations whereby people pay for upper class tickets are they “bumped” into the economy class.
He explained that the Passengers’ Rights Bill is borne out of Nigeria being a signatory to the Montreal Convention. The Convention stated among other things, the rights that passengers would have, and luckily the treaty was domesticated in the 2006 Aviation Act.
However, the treaty is a guideline which has not been explicit enough to treat certain practical issues, and this led to the House coming up with the idea of developing clear laws to regulate the industry on issues like delayed flights, damaged luggage, emergency situations and many more.
He said that the bill was practically embraced by almost every member of the House of Representatives during its presentation. Having scaled through its first and second reading, it has been committed to the Committee on Aviation to conduct the public hearing which is expected to hold during the first quarter of 2014.
We Have Not Done Well
Speaking about the general state of the aviation industry and its controversial moments in 2013, Bush who noted that he was not out to witch-hunt anyone, said that the industry has not done well.
Although he acknowledged that there are indeed laudable renovations and constructions being done at the airports, he insisted that quality services are more important in developing the aviation sector.
For example, he complained that at the Muritala Mohammed Airport, MMA, Lagos, it still takes very long for arriving passengers to get their luggage after landing, with some spending as long as 2 hours waiting.
He went further by asking what the essence of renovating airports are, when on arrival in a Nigerian airport, the first thing travellers see are tankers branded in different company names parked all over the place.
Bilateral Air Service Agreement – BASA
The Chairman House Committee on Treaties and Agreements, also criticized the imbalance in the country’s treaties and BASA with other countries like the United Kingdom.
He berated current arrangements whereby the British Airways has the access to operate its international flights from about 3 or 4 Nigerian airports, with about 14 flights in and out of Lagos weekly, while the Nigerian carrier does not have such privileges in the UK.
Bush believes that this arrangement is killing the local aviation industry. He added that Nigeria’s Arik Airline which operates the Lagos to London route has been restricted by the British authorities to only land at the Heathrow Airport. The implication of this is that their own local airlines would make revenue off passengers whose final destinations within UK is not London.
He noted that before picking up any agreement, there should be a policy, and those policies must ensure three keys things. They must ensure that there is no infringement on Human Rights, they do not impact negatively on the environment and that sustainable development is guaranteed.
He berated the way Nigeria gets into agreements with countries with financial obligations being imposed on Nigerians yet the country is not taking them serious, adding that some of the BASA do not even have reciprocity.
He explained that the average Nigerian does not know the treaties that Nigeria is bound by. Meanwhile the laws guiding countries signing such treaties say that their citizens should know about them, with the office of the Attorney-General saddled with the responsibility of making the details available.
He asked: “Can you count how many Nigerian businesses that have gone to South Africa to succeed despite the successes they (South Africa) have enjoyed here?” It is so because Nigerians don’t even know their rights in order to take advantage of them.”
Mr Bush-Alebiosu, added that his committee has demanded a BASA audit on the floor of the House, and it was also supported by the entire House. The essence of this audit is to review all the BASA that Nigeria has signed, in a bid to review and demand that they become more beneficial to Nigeria and Nigerians.
The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) command and other security agencies arrested an importer for the unauthorised importation of 11 cartons of substances suspected to be explosives and electronic detonators.
The explosives which was packaged professionally so it could beat security checks were brought in on the 18th of February 2012 on board South Africa Airways and it weighed 25kg in total.
Comptroller of Customs Airport Command, Mr Charles Edike confirmed that the importation was made without permit from the appropriate authorities.
The personnel at the NAHCO warehouse suspected the content inside the cartons which were labelled cartridge powder devices and chargers were prohibited items so security agencies were alerted immediately to further look into the cargo, due to the urgency attached to the clearing process by the importer while attempting to smuggle the cartons out of the cargo terminal without proper clearance of the items inside the carton as he also had the explosives concealed in pallets made of other goods which concealed the original content.
The importer who claimed to be a miner living in Kaduna state evaded import duty payment.
The importer and the prohibited explosives were handed over to the police for proper test on the items and for further investigation.