ByÂ Kenneth Ehigiator
It was bedlam yesterday at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, as stranded passengers of Bellview Airlines engaged its officials in a free-for-all.
Vanguard gathered that the passengers have been reporting to the airport for their flight since last Monday without success, as they were reportedly assured of airlift latest yesterday.
The commotion that trailed the hot verbal exchange among the passengers and airline officials prompted the Federal Airports Authority ofÂ Nigeria (FAAN), to deploy operatives of the airport police command to forestall a fight.
But, Bellview Airlinesâ€™ spokesman, Mr. Habib Mohammed, told Vanguard on phone that the airlineâ€™s inability to airlift the passengers was not deliberate, stressing that it was due to technical problem and the need to ensure safety.
It was learnt that the hundreds of the passengers, some of whom had been frequenting the airport since Tuesday had arrived early in the morning to board a rescheduled early morning flight scheduled for 9.05Â Â O clock, but were shocked to learn once again that the flight would not hold.
The restive passengers, including children and the physically-challenged, demandedÂ refunds and cast aspersions on the management, threatening hell if it failed to fly them or make alternative plans for them.
The diatribe between the parties was said to have led to the Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. Richard Aisuebeogun, being called to intervene to save the situation from degenerating.
Aisuebeogun, who came in company of the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Mr Bethel Amadi, could not, however, assuage the anger of the restive passengers who insisted on being flown to their destination.
Mrs. Ify Megwa, an official of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Consumer Protection Unit, also tried to appeal to the passengers,Â assuring them that their interests would be protected.
Most of the passengers said they came to Nigeria on vacation, and expressed fears that they may lose their jobs should they fail to report to work, as their leave was over.
â€œIâ€™m on leave and my leave is over,” said one of the passengers, Mr. Adeyinka Ogundipe, who was supposed to have been flown to London two days ago.
Speaking at the scene, Aisuebeogun said the action of Bellview was displeasing, because the airline had been told to take care of the passengers.
â€œWe have actually spoken to the Managing DirectorÂ of Bellview airlines and expressed our displeasure over what weâ€™ve seen. It’s most unfortunate,â€ he said.
Bellview spokesman, Mr. Habib Mohammed, attributed the delay in the airlift of the passengers to technical problems.
He, however, said some of the passengers who wished to continue their journey were checked into other airlines, while others had been checked into hotels.
Mohammed, who assured that the passengers would be airlifted today, said those who requested for refunds have also had their money refunded.
Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, had told newsmen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last Tuesday, that the crisis the airline was having with its passengers was due to the late arrival of one of its aircraft which was flown out of the country for maintenance.
Demuren said the airline’s management never anticipated that the aircraft would not be delivered on time, and had appealed to the passengers to bear with it.