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Hundreds of passengers were on Wednesday stranded as protesting aviation unions shut down operations at the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 operated by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the unions embarked on the protest alleging BASL’s sacking of 20 employees who indicated interest to unionise. 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). As early as 6am, the union members, who defied a morning downpour, barricaded the entrance to the MMA2. Their action came in spite of a court order restraining them from embarking on the protest. The unionists, who chanted various solidarity songs, accused BASL management of violating extant labour laws by not recognising the unions and preventing staff from joining unions in the sector. They prevented passengers going to catch their early morning flights, and also airline officials and people with businesses inside the terminal from gaining access to the premises. The protest also caused heavy vehicular traffic around the airport environment, which spiraled to some parts of Ikeja and the Agege Motor Road. Airlines affected by the action include Arik Air, Medview Airline, Azman Air, Max Air, Dana Air and Aero Contractors, which operate flights from the terminal. There was heavy presence of security operatives including the Police and officers of the Nigeria Air Force in the area during the protest. Mr Frances Akinjole, General Secretary, ATSSSAN, told NAN that the unions were compelled to carry out the action following the refusal of the BASL management to accede to their demands. Akinjole said:”This issue started since May when these workers were laid off for indicating interest to belong to unions. “We met the management asking them to reinstate these workers and recognise their rights to join unions but they refused. “The regulator of the industry, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as well as aviation security agencies have intervened in series of meetings, but BASL management has refused to do the needful to avert this crisis.” Akinjole denied knowledge of any court order restraining the unions from carrying out the action, stressing that what they were doing had legal backings. Also, Mr Olayinka Abioye, General Secretary, NUATE, said the unions had issued the notice of strike to the public to afford travelers the opportunity of making alternative traveling arrangements. Abioye urged the union members to remain calm and refuse any form of provocation by security agencies deployed to quell the protest. However, Bi-Courtney in a statement issued by its spokesman, Mr Steve Omolale, said the company had obtained a court order from the Federal High Court, Lagos, restraining the unions from shutting down Nigeria’s only privately-owned terminal. “We will like to bring it to the attention of the entire public that the Federal High Court in Lagos in suit number FHC/L/CS/16412/18 has granted an order restraining the unions from carrying out their threats of disrupting the activities of the terminal. “Pursuant to this order, members of the unions found in the premises of MMA2 would be liable to trespass. “We reserve our right under the law of Nigeria to deal with such person as a trespasser,” he said. (NAN)