By Adekunle Williams /Solomon Asowata
Arik Air on Thursday lamented incessant attacks by some aggrieved passengers on its staff and property at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.
The airline made this known in a statement signed by its Communications Manager, Mr Ola Adebanji and obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
The statement said the airline staff and property were attacked by the passengers on Wednesday while its flight operations were disrupted again on Thursday.
It said the issue started when the airline’s Lagos-New York flight was rescheduled from Wednesday to Thursday due to the shortage of aviation.
“Our Lagos-Johannesburg service and Lagos- Accra service were also on ground awaiting fuel while the Lagos-New York service was standing by for fuel.
“Aviation fuel supply has been epileptic in the country over the past weeks where availability of stock and terms of service are not guaranteed on a consistent basis by the marketers.
“Arik Air pursued all possible options to source fuel for the international flights but when our Customer Service Manager approached the passengers to explain the situation to them, one of the passengers chased and attacked him. ”
Adebanji said this is was followed by a mob of passengers who brutally beat, kicked and chased the Arik Air staff through the terminal building upto the Immigration Section of the terminal.
He said the staff was later rushed to the hospital where he was treated for injuries sustained “during this reckless and inhuman attack”.
According to the spokesperson Arik Air managed to source a small quantity of fuel and despite eventually sorting out the departure of the Johannesburg service, some of the passengers again on Thursday disrupted the airline’s check-in process.
He said this led to the cancellation of some of the international flights, including the Lagos-London Heathrow-Lagos service.
“Arik Air strongly condemns the incessant and increasing number of attacks on our staff and property in the recent months.
“As a flag carrier for Nigeria, the airline expresses it disappointment and dismay that the Aviation Security Department (AVSEC) of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and all the other security agencies in the country cannot ensure or guarantee the safety of our personnel when on duty across the various airports in the country.
“This serious breach of security and lawlessness by some of the passengers to assault and cause bodily harm to the airline’s personnel cannot and will not continue to be tolerated.
“Passengers continue to take the laws into their hands and the severity and frequencies of such criminal acts are on the rise due to lack of appropriate action or preventative measures from the security agencies.
“The resort to verbal or physical violence in any form by a passenger is not acceptable to Arik Air and the airline would henceforth deploy all measures necessary against any passenger who takes the law into his hands.”
It said the airline would also pursue legal action and engage local and foreign security agencies to investigate, identify and prosecute, to the full extent of the law, all of those passengers in Nigeria and overseas, involved in the attacks.
Adebanji said the airline also intended to formally address the regulators, security agencies and aviation authorities both in Nigeria and overseas to get an immediate resolution to this matter.
“Security at our airports ought to be improved to guard against unwarranted and uncalled for assaults on airline personnel and passengers.
” Despite repeated appeals and calls for intervention on numerous occasions, the airport authorities and security agencies have done nothing to protect the lives of staff and property of Arik Air in the wake of these attacks.
” The same authorities are however spontaneous in sanctioning the airlines whenever there is a service disruption without providing adequate support or security to prevent passengers from disrupting the service in the first instance.”