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Turkish Airlines may face sanctions over mistreatment of Nigerian passengers 

Turkish Airlines Plane

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has indicated its readiness to impose regulatory sanctions on Turkish Airlines in response to the airline’s alleged mistreatment of Nigerian passengers.  

This was disclosed by Mr. Michael Achimugu, Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection at NCAA, during a press briefing in Lagos on Wednesday. 

Achimugu revealed that President Bola Tinubu has instructed the NCAA, along with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other relevant agencies, to ensure the protection of Nigerian passengers’ rights at all times.

This directive comes amidst ongoing mediation by the NCAA between Turkish Airlines and aviation labour unions, who have disrupted the airline’s operations at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. 

“Currently, the NCAA is engaging officials of Turkish Airlines, but we have observed some degree of insolence of the Country Manager, who engaged our DG in a shouting match. He was even banging the table.

“This behaviour to the NCAA is unacceptable. At the end of our findings, if the airline is found culpable, we will invoke the relevant parts of our regulation Part 17,  to meet out the right punishment,” he said.

Backstory 

Approximately 300 passengers, many of whom are Nigerians from Italy, were stranded at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, due to the picketing of Turkish Airlines by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).  

Passengers, primarily from Edo State, have increasingly relied on Turkish Airlines due to the lack of direct flights from Italy to Nigeria.

Their flights had been cancelled but the airline did not inform passengers until the last minute. 

These passengers, including families with children, were left without assistance or communication from the airline. 

According to reports, passengers tried to reach out to Lokman Balkan, General Manager for Turkish Airlines in Nigeria, but he allegedly stood them up and was later escorted out by officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). 

Also, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) initiated the picketing of Turkish Airlines in Lagos after some of its members were sacked and their gratuity withheld since 2020. This action seeks to pressure the airline to reinstate employees who were dismissed or coerced into resignation in 2020 due to union activities.   

What to know 

Achimugu noted that a virtual meeting was held on Tuesday, chaired by NCAA Director-General Capt. Chris Najomo, from the United Kingdom.  

He emphasized that the NCAA is committed to upholding the rights of Nigerian passengers and will not tolerate any airline, domestic or foreign, violating these rights. 

Amidst the crisis, some passengers have reported dire personal impacts, Obiekwe Ngozichukwu, a resident of Guttenberg, Sweden, expressed fear of losing his job due to his inability to return to work.

Having come to Nigeria for his mother’s burial, Ngozichukwu has been stranded at the airport for two days. Similarly, Charles Ifeanyi, a Germany-based construction worker, called for government intervention to prevent the continued mistreatment of Nigerian citizens. 

Achimugu visited the stranded passengers at the new terminal of the international airport on Wednesday evening, conveying assurances from the NCAA Director-General that the authority would not relent until all affected passengers were safely transported to their destinations. 

Achimugu further stated, “The NCAA is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding Turkish Airlines’ inability to operate flights out of Lagos Airport due to the picketing by aviation unions. We will ensure that the rights of Nigerian passengers are not violated. President Bola Tinubu has directed the NCAA, FAAN, and relevant agencies to protect the rights of Nigerian passengers.”


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