—as aggrieved ex-staff issue threat to ground operations
Ex-workers of the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) owned by Taiwo Afolabi, the Executive Vice-Chairman of SIFAX Group have issued a one-week ultimatum to the Ground Handling operator to pay the sum of N1.8billion as their severance package or risk their operations in the 22 airports in the country grounded.
The aggrieved workers claimed the management of the ground handling company has failed to pay this sum being their severance entitlement since 11 years when the company was privertised.
SAHCO, which has since gone public, was an arm of the defunct Nigerian Airways which was sold to SIFAX Group in 2009.
But the ex-workers, who are 982 in number, said no fewer than 15 of them have died fighting for their entitlemenst while many of them are currently incapacitated.
They however gave the company and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) one week to pay their entitlement, saying failure to do so would disrupt SAHCO’s operation in 22 airports across the country.
Chairman of the former SAHCO retirees, Ochai Adamu, who spoke with newsmen at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, asked the BPE to intervene in the matter immediately, adding that SAHCO has handed off payment of the benefits.
He said the entire benefit was N3.5bn but was later reduced to N1.8bn, adding that none of the workers has got any money in 11 years.
Aviation unions, comprising the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) had on 31st of August wrote a letter to SAHCO that the continued refusal to pay the benefit of the affected workers “is a recipe for industrial crisis in the company.”
“We are constrained, therefore, to inform you that our unions can no longer wait helplessly and hopelessly as these victims die one after another without enjoying the benefits of their labour,” the unions said in the letter signed by the General Secretary of NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba, and Deputy General Secretary, ATSSSAN, Comrade Frances Akinjole.
But SAHCO in a reply to the letter insisted that the redundancy claim by the ex-workers is for the number of years they worked for the federal government and not for SAHCO, and directed that the threat should be directed to the appropriate quarters.
Emirates airline suspends operations in Nigeria over $85m trapped funds
From September 1st, 2022, Emirates airlines will cease to operate flight operations in and out of Nigeria.
It could be recalled that Emirate airline had cut down on its weekly number of flights into Lagos from 11 to seven over US$85 million of funds awaiting repatriation from Nigeria.
The airline said the figure has been rising by more than $US10 million every month, as the ongoing operational costs of our 11 weekly flights to Lagos and 5 to Abuja continue to accumulate.
They, however, said that the trapped funds are urgently needed to meet operational costs and maintain the commercial viability of their services to Nigeria.
“We simply cannot continue to operate at the current level in the face of mounting losses, especially in the challenging post-COVID-19 climate. Emirates did try to stem the losses by proposing to pay for fuel in Nigeria in Naira, which would have at least reduced one element of our ongoing costs, however, this request was denied by the supplier,” the airline had said.
However, with no considerable improvement and headway in repatriating the trapped fund, the airline, on Thursday, announced the suspension of its operations in Nigeria indefinitely.
The statement reads, “Emirates has tried every avenue to address our ongoing challenges in repatriating funds from Nigeria, and we have made considerable efforts to initiate dialogue with the relevant authorities for their urgent intervention to help find a viable solution.
“Regrettably there has been no progress. Therefore, Emirates has taken the difficult decision to suspend all flights to and from Nigeria, effective 1st September 2022, to limit further losses and impact on our operational costs that continue to accumulate in the market.
“We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to our customers, however, the circumstances are beyond our control at this stage. We will be working to help impacted customers make alternative travel arrangements wherever possible.”
“Should there be any positive developments in the coming days regarding Emirates’ blocked funds in Nigeria, we will of course re-evaluate our decision. We remain keen to serve Nigeria, and our operations provide much-needed connectivity for Nigerian travelers, providing access to trade and tourism opportunities to Dubai, and to our broader network of over 130 destinations.”
Scarcity of forex forces Air Peace to suspend flights on South Africa route
Air Peace, on Monday, said it has stopped flight operations to Johannesburg, South Africa effective from August 22, 2022, due to delayed issuance of South African visas to travellers, worsening forex crunch and the increasing cost of aviation fuel as well as its scarcity.
The carrier in a statement on items official Twitter handle said the development was regretted but has become inevitable, saying the situation may improve in 60 days.
According to the airline, they have informed the South African High Commission in Lagos of the effects of the difficulty in getting SA visas by Nigerians, which consequence is the abysmally low passenger loads o flights to and from Johannesburg.
The statement read, “Passengers whose flights are affected have the option of rescheduling to fly before August 22, 2022, or from October 9, 2022. Passengers can also request a refund via email@example.com and our team will attend to it promptly.
The carrier apologised for the inconveniences caused, stressing that it would keep the public updated while it hoped the situation improves.
The sudden stoppage of operations by Nigeria’s airlines has further reinforced the precarious situation of carriers in the country and globally as airlines are extremely finding it difficult to operate profitably because of the crisis that has hit the sector, particularly on the skyrocketing prices of Jet fuel.
The foreign exchange (FX) liquidity crisis is eating deeper into the daily operations of the local airlines, causing airlines’ capacity to dwindle and hitting up airfares.
With aviation fuel at its all-time high and foreign exchange unavailable to meet obligations on schedule, local air travellers should brace up for tougher days ahead.
Operators have warned that the dire situation, now feasting on airlines’ operations, would worsen flight delays and cancellations, further reduce frequencies and routes, and push airfares higher as more carriers battle to stay afloat.
With 10 local airlines suddenly down to eight, the effects are telling on local travels. On the one hand are the stranded travellers on less viable routes. On the other are high-frequency routes that are now affected by high fares.
FAAN debunks rumours of Lagos plane crash
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on Wednesday debunked viral news that a plane had crashed in the Ikeja area of Lagos State.
In a short statement posted on its verified Facebook page, the airport authority said that the plane was sold by the owner and was being transported by the new buyer.
“The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria would like to inform the general public to disregard the news making the rounds on social media about an alleged crash at Ikeja Airport.
The aircraft was sold by the owner to a buyer, who was taking it to its final destination.”
This clarification came after a wingless plane was seen being transported on a flatbed trailer on the road at Ikeja- along bus stop axis, Lagos, causing gridlock and panic among road users.
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