By Lawani Mikairu
Aviation unions Thursday night suspended their two days picketing of Muritala Muhammed Airport, terminal 2, Lagos after extensive meeting and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), operators of the terminal assented to the demands of industry unions by recalling the sacked 27 workers of the company.
The unions; Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) had grounded activities at the terminal since Wednesday morning.
As at the time of filing this report, representatives of the unions and BASL were still locked in a meeting, called by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), but feelers indicated that all the demands of the unions were approved by the management.
BASL had on Thursday lamented that it lost over N120m to the picketing by the unions.
The Airlines operating from the Muritala Mohammed Airport terminal 2, MMA2, had relocated their operations to the General Aviation Terminal, GAT, managed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, as ongoing picketing of MMA2 by aviation unions entered day three.
This came as FAAN said GAT was capable of handling the new airlines joining the terminal as provision had been made to accommodate them.
The relocation of the airlines became necessary as the siege on MMA2 by aviation unions entered day 2 and the inability of the airlines to carry out their operations at the terminal.
The affected airlines are Dana Air, Med-View Air, Aero Contractors, Azman Air and Max Air.
The spokespersons of the affected airlines, who confirmed their relocation to GAT, said it was an immediate measure to mitigate their losses. The Public Affairs General Manager of FAAN also confirmed the increase in revenue for the agency with the relocation of the airline to GAT as the charges earlier paid to MMA2 now come to FAAN.
The management of MedView Airlines, while confirming their relocation said; “We have to move our operations to GAT while waiting for the resolution of the unions with Bi-Courtney.”Also, Dana Air spokesperson, Kingsley Ezenwa, who confirmed that Dana Air is using the FAAN facility said: “We have to take care of our passengers by operating from GAT for now. This is not a good situation at all.”
While apologising to the airline’s customers who “missed their flights as a result of the dispute between aviation unions and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), operators of MMA2 said: “For now, we have lost over N100m to the ongoing action and losing such money in an industry where airlines are still grappling with a myriad of challenges is unacceptable and disappointing to say the least. We do not know how the situation will be in the coming days and we might have no other option than to downsize if the action stretches for too long.”
FAAN General Manager, Public Affairs, Henrietta Yakubu, while confirming the relocation said: “Yes more revenue for us but we should not forget that the airlines are here temporarily. Our facility is capable of handling more passengers and there is no cause for alarm.”
Unions threaten shutdown of GAT
Meanwhile, the unions have threatened to ground flight operations at all terminals of the Muritala Muhammed Airport, MMA, Lagos, over the sacking of their members by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, BASL.
They issued the warning on the second day of their ongoing picketing of MMA2, operated by BASL, whose management allegedly sacked 24 employees for indicating interest to unionise.
Speaking on behalf of the unions, Mr Frances Akinjole, Deputy General Secretary, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria ATSSSAN, said: “The present protest is the only option left for us but as you can see now, our protest is not even yielding any result because the management has decided to barricaded their own company with two heavy trucks by themselves.
“We have been concentrating on MMA2 since Wednesday and today but if it should go beyond this week then the whole of this Lagos airport will also be affected.”
However, the BASL management barricaded the two entry and exit points with trucks while some security operatives were seen with sniffer dogs to prevent the protesters from gaining access into the terminal building.
BASL, in a statement, yesterday by its spokesman, Steve Omolale, alleged that “We have it on good authority that unions in the aviation sector, who have grounded our operations for days now, are making clandestine moves to invade our terminal in the night and destroy the facilities therein. We will never allow this to happen as we consider it as the greatest act of criminality. We want to assure the unions that as a law-abiding corporate citizen, we will do everything possible within the ambit of the law to protect our terminal.