Aviation unions shun govt plea, threaten total shutdown
Aviation workers have threatened to shut down the country’s airports, as they enter the second day of their strike to the Federal Government failed to meet their demands.
This was despite a statement by the Ministry of Aviation on Monday, pleading with the striking workers to suspend the industrial action that led to many air passengers being stranded across the country.
The aviation workers embarked on the strike after a meeting called by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority ended in a stalemate.
The Director-General, Civil Aviation, Capt. Musa Nuhu, called the meeting aimed at prevailing on the unions to shelve their planned two-day warning strike with representatives of the unions in attendance.
The General Secretary Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees, Sikiru Waheed, disclosed this to journalists at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on Monday.
According to him, the second day of the ongoing strike will be more effective, adding that the first day of the strike was a warning to the public and the government that they are serious about their demands.
He said, “Day two of the strike would be more effective than what you are seeing here now because we only used today as a warning to people that are travelling.”
He also urged people who have scheduled to travel on Tuesday to shelve their plans, saying that the strike action will be a total shutdown.
“So, people who need to travel tomorrow should not book a flight for tomorrow because it is going to be a total shutdown. It is not going to be like today. By 5:00 am we will be here to shut down everywhere.
“We are appealing to all those that want to travel that they should shelve their journey for tomorrow because it may be disrupted. It is a warning for everyone in the public.”
When our correspondent visited the airport, it was observed that passengers arriving at the Abuja airport were stranded due to heavy traffic.
The striking workers locked the check-in halls, causing long queues and disrupting vehicular movement.
One of the airport officials, who sought to be anonymous, said that many of the stranded passengers missed their flights due to the union’s actions.
The situation caused chaos and confusion at the airport, as frustrated passengers voiced their displeasure over the lack of communication and assistance from airport officials.
A passenger, Justin Chinonso, said,” I don’t know why in a country like Nigeria, with such a huge amount of people, will treat citizens like this. This will cause a lot of havoc for citizens.
“Protest is normal in every civilized country. It is a way of airing our views, provided that it is done peacefully. I just got into the country two days ago and do not even know about the strike. I am just hearing it.”
Also, another passenger, a student of Anglican Girls’ Grammar School, Apo, Abuja, who preferred to be addressed as Sharon, said she had arrived at the airport in the morning and was waiting for her mother to come and pick her up.
Speaking with her mother on the telephone, the mother said she had sent a driver to pick her daughter up from the airport since 8:30 am but due to the gridlock at the airport, the driver had been in the traffic for close to three hours.
Meanwhile, at the Lagos airport, activities were also disrupted with many passengers stranded because of the aviation workers’ strike.
The striking workers blocked the entrance to the Murtala Muhammad Airport domestic terminal, leaving many passengers stranded.
The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Aviation, had issued a strong plea to aviation unions to end their ongoing strike.
A statement by the Head, Press and Public Relations of the ministry, Odutayo Oluseyi, noted that the strike was unnecessary as it will increase the hardship on our citizens, affect flight schedules, lead to economic losses and negatively impact the country’s global rating.
Oluseyi, who spoke on behalf of the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the grievances prompting the strike by the unions, were issues that should not lead to a strike.
He added the planned demolition of certain buildings obstructing the runway was in the public interest and an administrative issue that can be sorted in-house.
The statement further noted that the unions should have met with the management of agencies for alternative accommodation to all affected offices before going ahead with the strike.
The statement reads,” On the concession of airports, the unions are aware of global practices and for the aviation industry in Nigeria to be the hub in Africa, the concession is the way to go to improve infrastructure and make our airports economically viable as this is without loss of jobs.
”On the conditions of service in some of the agencies, it is a work in progress. The National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission is already carrying out assessments and will soon conclude.”