By Wole Oyebade
Local airlines yesterday recorded losses in excess of N400 million over the closure of Murtala Muhammed Airport II (MMA2) and disruption of flight activities on Wednesday.
The picketing by aviation workers, which enters day three this morning, has heightened fears that over a billion naira would have been lost by the end of today, further putting the airlines in dire straits.Apparently hard hit by the losses, Dana Air has threatened to downsize its workforce, should the losses continue.
Meanwhile, concerned stakeholders and workers in the terminal yesterday staged a counter-protest condemning alleged plans by the unions to invade and destroy MMA2 facilities.The Guardian yesterday observed that all five airlines – Aero Contractors, Dana Air, Azman, Med-View and Overland – had temporarily moved operations to the near-by General Aviation Terminal (GAT). The move was, however, faced with new challenge of congestion and delays in facilitation of passengers at GAT.
Outside at the MMA2 section, members of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) continued to barricade the gates, though had been joined by heavy duty trucks, bouncers and attack dogs.
The unions on Wednesday jointly shut the busy terminal in protest against alleged anti-labour activities and sack of 20 members by management of the facility.Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) that owns and operates MMA2 said that most of the affected workers had reached retirement age while others were dismissed for negligence of duty.
Dana Air, in a statement signed by its Corporate Communications Manager, Kingsley Ezenwa, disclosed that while they currently operate from GAT, “our worse fear is processing passengers, with over eight airlines having to operate at the same time.”Dana, however, appealed to the parties to re-consider the affected passengers and save the industry from collapse.
“Without the passengers, there won’t be any airline, regulator or industry, and we believe that they shouldn’t suffer for what they did not contribute to,” Dana stated.Secretary-general of NUATE, Olayinka Abioye, yesterday reaffirmed that the closure would continue until BASL deems it fit to recall the sacked workers.
Abioye said that contrary to the claim that the unions defied a court order, “none of our unions have been served any court paper up till now. “BASL, who badly needed external intervention, was the one who brought dogs, bouncers and low loader trailers to block its own terminal, technically assisting the unions picket the terminal further.
“The Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police, Lagos Airport Command (Aminchi Baraja) has called for a meeting with all parties towards resolving the matter. However, the only solution is the recall of the sacked staff and unionisation of willing workers. There shall be no retreat or surrender,” Abioye said.But, the concessionaires, their workers and other business owners at the terminal, who trooped out in their hundreds to protest the unions’ plan, accused the unions of deliberately planning to sabotage the terminal, if their demands were not meant.