Organised labour stops flights to Owerri from in Lagos, Abuja

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Hundreds of passengers were stranded at the nation’s airports in the early hours of Wednesday.

The development was caused by the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress.

The Central Working Committees of the two unions had on Monday resolved to disrupt Owerri-bound flights, especially at the domestic wings of the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

Their grouse was the reported disruption of Monday’s May Day celebration by suspected thugs in Imo State.

The state chapter of the NLC, which dissociated itself from the incident, denied that its members were attacked.

Some of the stranded passengers at the MMA and NAIA condemned the action of the NLC and TUC, saying they were caught unaware.

Some passengers described the union’s action as abnormal. They said it adversely impacted their travel itinerary.

An Owerri-, bound passenger, who identified himself as Henry Ugochukwu, said he almost lost a business opportunity.

“Thanks for the airline’s proactive measure of having to reschedule me for another travel time,” he said.

Abel Dike, who was bound for Owerri from Abuja, said such “interloping by trade unions is creating discomfort for people’s private schedules.”

Another passenger travelling to Owerri from Lagos said the unions should not extend their problems with state governments to private individuals going about their daily survival.

Managements of the three airlines – Air Peace,  United Nigeria Airlines and Green Africa Airways  –  that ply the Owerri route from Lagos and Abuja, also flayed the development. They said they were not only forced to reschedule flights but that they also lost revenue.

Air Peace in a statement lamented that its check-in counters and other aspects of its operations were taken over by members of aviation unions affiliated with the NLC and TUC.

The statement reads in part, “NLC and TUC officials stormed the Lagos Airport and took over our check-in counters, disrupting all our operations because of an alleged misunderstanding they had with Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State.

“They had written us, saying that no flight should be operated into Owerri today (Wednesday) because, as alleged, Governor Uzodinma disrupted their May Day activities a few days ago.

“Air Peace has no affiliation whatsoever with the Imo State Government or Governor Uzodinma.

“Our duty and commitment are to the Nigerian flying public that has paid us. We have a contract with them to deliver.

“This (yesterday) morning, they carried out a selective attack on Air Peace, took over our counters and disrupted our operations.

They are disrupting over 110 flights of Air Peace. This particular illegal action of NLC and TUC will lead to over N700m loss to the airline.”

Also, Green Africa Airways’ Brand Marketing Specialist of the airline. Omolara Kehinde said, “As an airline, we take seriously the issue of on-time performance. In every sense, the action of the unions affected our flights, but given the priority we placed on safety, we managed the situation by notifying our passengers of the need to keep on until the situation normalised. And for those who intend to reschedule their travel for another date, a window has to be created.”

In Owerri, Imo State Chairman of the NLC faction recognised by the government, Basil Iwu, told reporters that  the disruption of flights was uncalled for  since  ”no  attack on workers took place in the state.”

Iwu said, “Imo workers have seen no need for any strike action for now and therefore call on our able leaders to please jettison the idea of strike action in Imo State. No worker will participate in the so-called strike.

“The video recording can testify to this, Imo workers joyfully participated in all the activities lined up for the May Day celebrations as our worker-friendly governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma took the salute.

“The event started well and ended well. There was no fight much less vandalism. It, therefore, baffles us that our revered   CWC can listen to lies and take decisions that can shake the foundation of Labour in this country.”



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