The Federal Government has said it will not allow a repeat of last Monday’s strike by aviation unions which grounded activities at key international airports in Abuja and Lagos.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said this on Wednesday while fielding questions from State House reporters after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The minister, who apologised to the affected passengers, said such action was not permitted going by the provisions of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Act.
He regretted the damage such action could have done to sick passengers or those traveling for examination after the return of an aircraft to its base.
When asked about the strike, Sirika said, “This is very important to the traveling public. First, we apologise to them, our teeming passengers in this difficult moment. Secondly, this will not happen in the future by the grace of God. And the reason is simple, aviation is an essential service, the Act has been assented to by Mr. President, so strikes and riots around our airports are prohibited by the laws of the land.
“And now that we have the act in place and assented by Mr President and passed by the National Assembly. So, we will deal with it according to the law. We will ensure no essential service is being disrupted by anybody no matter how aggrieved. There are other channels of channeling issues when they arise but they are not permitted to go on strike because aviation is an essential service and is by the law of the land now.
“I will give you an example, there was an airline that had to return to base because it couldn’t land. Imagine if there was a patient on that aircraft? Imagine somebody attending to a very serious issue or matter at hand or business or a student trying to catch with a exam and then because of somebody who is aggrieved, some other persons will die.
Government will no longer allow that. So it’s in the law of the land, check the FAAN Act, it’s been assented to and it’s going to take place soon, in fact now, from today, we will not allow that.
“Our ears are always open, government is open to listen to any grievances and there are procedures for dealing with this kind of grievances. They should please desist from this, it is wrong, it is inhuman, it is not allowed, it is not permitted and we will not be permitting any longer.”
On Monday, thousands of passengers were stranded nationwide following the strike embarked upon by two Aviation unions including the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN).
The unions are at loggerheads with the management of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) over poor remuneration of members working with them.
Both unions have been engaging the management until last week when a five-day notice of strike was issued to the management to accede to their request for better welfare package.
It was learnt that the NAHCO management had secured a court order to stop the planned strike but the unions went ahead with the strike.
NAHCO workers in the early hours of Monday withdrew their services for airlines handled by the company at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja.
NAHCO handles many foreign and local airlines including Virgin Nigeria, Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, among others and the local level, it handles Air Peace, Azman, United Nigeria, Dana Airlines, among others all counting the cost of the disruptions.
Flights were disrupted for over 10 hours because the strike was finally suspended.