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Aviation unions move to shut airports nationwide

Aviation industry unions have concluded plans to protest at all airports in the country  on Monday following what they called the “obnoxious” provisions in the…

Aviation industry unions have concluded plans to protest at all airports in the country  on Monday following what they called the “obnoxious” provisions in the newly signed Civil Aviation Act (CAA) which gives the Minister of Aviation express power to prohibit trade union activities.

President Muhammadu Buhari had last week signed the new Civil Aviation Act into law out of the six aviation Bills recently passed by the National Assembly.

But the unions said they have discovered that the new Act assented to by the President contained provisions classifying aviation agencies as rendering essential services while empowering the Minister to prohibit industrial action by unions.

The unions including the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) at a joint conference at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos gave a 14-day ultimatum from Monday to correct the anomaly or face a total shut down of the sector.

General Secretary of NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba, who briefed newsmen explained that the issue of prescribing union activities did not come up during the public hearings organised by the Joint National Assembly committees on Aviation before the Bills were passed.

According to him, the new civil aviation Act transmitted to the President for assent stated that “all services which facilitate and maintain smooth, orderly and safe take off, flight and landing of aircraft,  embarkation and disembarkation and evacuation of passengers and cargo respectively in all aerodromes in Nigeria are hereby designated as essential services pursuant to the provisions of section 11 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered).

Also the Act was said to have provided that there shall be no strikes, lock-outs, pickets, blockades, service disruptions, etc of any kind within all facilities managed by the agency and where any labour dispute arises, such dispute shall be resolved by the agency.

Ocheme said, “For all intents and purposes, the above stated provisions represent an effort at repression and oppression.”

He reiterated that during the public hearing organised by the House of Representatives, the issue of essential service was responded to by the President of NAAPE who drew attention to a National Industrial Court ruling to the effect that airlines do not render essential services.

Aba added, “As far as we are concerned,  the matter rested at that, as no member of the public in particular canvassed any such position.

“More disturbingly, the subject of essential services did not feature in any of the deliberations of either Committees of the National Assembly in the course of making any of the six Bills in question as tue National Assembly records show.”

The unions however demanded investigation on how the clauses found their way into the Bills transmitted to the President, insisting that the clauses, which conflict heavily with prevailing National and international laws cannot find a hiding place in the aviation conclave.

“It be placed on record that the consequence of a bad law is that the law cannot be implemented,  or will be disobeyed,” he NUATE scribe added.

He said, “To demonstrate our resolve against this brazen effort to totally obliterate aviation unions,  we have directed all our state organs to carry out a peaceful public demonstrations at all airports nationwide on Monday the 12th of September 2022.

“And should the situation remain not ameliorated beyond 14 days after the demonstrations, then our unions shall embark on total industrial action to press home our demands.”