Four passengers who allegedly attacked Air Peace crew members at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos at the weekend were on Monday charged before an Ogba Magistrates’ Court.
The passengers were dragged before the court by the police on a three-count charge bordering on malicious damage and assaulting Air Peace crew members.
Two of the four passengers, however, allegedly escaped before their arraignment in court on Monday.
The two other passengers arraigned, Mrs Halima Mohammed and Mr Osagie, pleaded not guilty to the three-count charge.
The police alleged that the defendants committed the offences at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Murtala Muhammed Airport on May 26, 2018 .
The passengers were accused of damaging a car belonging to Air Peace and assaulting a pilot while demanding compensation from the airline over the delay of their Abuja-Lagos flight on Friday.
Following an application by their counsel, the trial magistrate, I.A. Abina admitted the defendants to bail in the sum of N100, 000 each and two sureties in like sum.
The court fixed May 30 for perfection of the bail and July 2 for mention of the case.
Before the accused persons were charged to court, a source told newsmen: “On Friday, May 25, 2018, there was an early morning downpour lasting till late in the day in most parts of Nigeria, including Lagos and Abuja. The situation precipitated a serious weather challenge for most of the flights operated by Air Peace for the day.
“Given the development, email and text messages were sent by the airline to those whose flights were affected, notifying them that their flights had been rescheduled to different times of the day.
“One of the flights affected by the adverse weather condition was the carrier’s 7.40pm Abuja-Lagos service (Flight P47135). All passengers with reservation on the flight were notified at 12.37pm on Friday, May 25, 2018 (the day of the flight – seven hours ahead of the original flight time) through the email and phone contacts they supplied at the point of booking that the flight had been rescheduled till 9.35pm to avoid a situation where they would go to the airport to wait.
“Due to the persistent adverse weather, the flight could not operate out of Abuja at 9.35pm. While the wait lasted, all passengers on the flight were duly served refreshment. However, a particular passenger on board the flight started inciting others to violence in Abuja. The flight could only take off from Abuja for Lagos at about 11pm.
“Upon landing in Lagos, the same passenger, now joined by five others, started inciting violence. They refused to disembark after other passengers left the aircraft. All appeals to them to disembark were rebuffed.
“The six passengers eventually went to block the exit of the aircraft, insisting that the crew members must compensate them or they (the crew members) would not be allowed to disembark from the aircraft. The intervention of the pilot-in-command did not change the stance of the passengers.
“After holding the crew members on board the flight for over one hour, Air Peace had to call for the intervention of the aviation security operatives of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria. Appeals by FAAN AVSEC to the passengers to disembark were also rebuffed.
“After a struggle with the passengers, FAAN AVSEC operatives were eventually able to rescue Air Peace crew members from the aircraft. The passengers again attacked the crew members in the crew bus at the ramp of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, dragging them out of the moving vehicle. Again, FAAN AVSEC’s intervention saved the day.
“But unknown to the crew, the passengers had moved to the arrival area of the airport to ambush and further attack the crew members. Trying to prevent the crew members from leaving the airport, the six passengers smashed the windscreen of the Honda car of one of the crew members and stripped another.
“It was at this point FAAN AVSEC operatives took the passengers in for questioning. The crew members were later invited to make their statement. Again, right before FAAN AVSEC, the passengers kept assaulting the crew members, insisting that they (passengers) were out to bring the airline down.
“FAAN AVSEC operatives later transferred the passengers, crew members and damaged car to a police station close to the airport. The DPO, however, ordered that the matter be transferred to Beesam Police Command.”