Aviation Workers Ground Airport Activities In Lagos

Ola ‘Kiya, Reporting

IT was hellish at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos on Monday as passengers were stranded following the grounding of flight activities by aviation workers.

The distruption lasted for several hours as the workers embarked on a two-day warning strike over salary structures.

The unions, in solidarity with the representatives of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), brought all businesses to a halt.

The workers gathered at the roundabout leading to both the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) and the MMA2.

The heavy presence of the airport police command and their counterparts from the State Security Service did not deterr the workers from ventilating their displeasure.

Workers from various agencies, led by the unions, chanted derogatory songs against the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, whom they accused of plunging the sector into avoidable crisis.

A photojournalist, Ben Uwalaka of the Daily Trust, was assaulted and detained by the airport police for doing his job.

The police officers’ attempt to provoke the unions and workers to anger was unsuccessful, and Uwalaka was released with the intervention of the representatives of the unions and airport journalists, although his expensive camera was already damaged.

However, at 12 noon, the unions removed the blockade on the roads, providing relief for intending passengers and other airport workers.

They vowed to continue with the protest and warning strike on Tuesday, April 18th.

The unions have equally warned that if nothing tangible comes from the government at the end of the warning strike, there will be a total shutdown of the airports and the airspace.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Aviation has expressed its displeasure at the ongoing warning strike embarked upon by the unions.

It described it as unnecessary and capable of increasing the hardships of Nigerians.

In a letter issued and signed by the Head of Press and Public Affairs at the Ministry, Odutayo Oluseyi, the ministry insisted that the offices of the agencies already marked for demolition were obstructing the airport runway, hence, in the public interest.

He appealed to the unions to sheathe their swords, adding “any behaviour by any union that is likely to lead to a breakdown of law and order at the airports,” will not be taken lightly.

As regards the airport concession, the ministry argued that it was a global practice aimed at enhancing the economic viability of airports.

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