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Two journalists petition Green Africa Airline over inhuman treatment, discrimination

A Lagos Base Journalist, Wahab Akinlade, has expressed displeasure over inhumane treatment he was subjected to by Green Africa Airlines.
In a related development, visually impaired Assistant Director of Programmes with a popular radio station, Mr Victor Oteri, has sent a pre-action legal notice to Green Africa Airline, Ikeja, Lagos over discrimination and  maltreatment.

Akinlade booked a 6am flight with the Green Africa Airlines for Friday April 8 2022 from Lagos to Abuja, for a national event scheduled to start at 9am. He was shocked by the airline staff on the morning of the trip when he arrived the airport at 5:40 am and was told that boarding had closed.

According to him, “The flight, which is scheduled for 6 am on Friday closed boarding at 5:30 am leaving numerous customers stranded”. In an effort to seek redress, Akinlade approached the customer care desk to change the ticket trip for a return ticket only to be told that he cannot change the trip. He then sought for refund but the airline refused, insisting that the company’s policy was that money paid for boarding fare cannot be returned to the customer. The airline staff pointed to a notice written on its ticket to that effect as conclusive proof of their position.

When the journalist tried to explain to them that their policy was unlawful as the law mandates them to refund fares for services not provided, the airline officials retorted in a rude manner. Akinlade later left Lagos with another flight at a higher rate of fifteen percent and was still unable to meet his scheduled programme at 9am in Abuja. Akinlade is demanding an apology, a refund and damages compensation for truncating his trip and event.

Oteri alleged that officials of the airline stopped him from boarding the aircraft after he (Oteri) had observed all protocol. He described the company’s act as antithetical to global practices in the aviation industry. The pre-action legal notice, was written on Oteri’s behalf by a group of human rights lawyers led by Mr. Debo Adeleke.

The notice was specifically addressed to Chairman/CEO of Green Africa Airline, in which Oteri alleged that he was not allowed to board the flight even when all formalities have been duly completed.
The lawyers are demanding on behalf of Oteri a total sum of N22. 5 million being damages for subjecting their client to untold hardship and psychological depression.

Adeleke also demands a public apology to be published in at least two National Newspapers and a sum of N70,000.00 being refund of the flight ticket paid by the client with 10% interest.

However, when contacted the company Public Relations Officer, Oyindamola Fasogbon, said the legal department will respond to the notice. She said, “I am sure our legal department will file response to the notice. It’s a legal issue.”

The lawyer stated in the letter that, “We are a group of Human Right Lawyers defending the rights and privileges of the down trodden and upholding the sanctity of the Constitution of our Dear Motherland, Nigeria.

“In the course of our responsibility, we act as the barometer for the enforcement and defending the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended).

“He is equally a bonafide and accredited member of Physically Challenged Aid Foundation (PCAF). We have the instruction cum express directive of the said Mr. Victor to represent him as his Solicitors in the above captioned matter. Consequently, he will be referred to in the body of this letter as our client”.

Narrating his ordeal, Oteri said: “On 4th and 5th March 2022 our client had a scheduled Professional Engagement in Ilorin, the Capital of Kwara State. He purchased a flight ticket of your Airline with the First Flight from Lagos to Ilorin on 4th March 2022.

“That he was scheduled to travel on your first flight which is 7am flight from Lagos so as to be able to catch a scheduled programmed at 9am with a return flight by 15:15pm on Saturday 6th March 2022.”

The letter further read, that the round trip cost him a total of N70,000 which he promptly paid and the flight ticket was issued to him accordingly.

“Your flight to Ilorin was to depart at Alfa Hall of General Aviation Terminal (Old Terminal) Muritala Muhammed Airport Lagos.

In order for our client to catch up with the 7am scheduled flight, he got to the Airport with the Assistant of his Driver at 6am for pre-travel formalities.
Our client duly completed his boarding formalities in company of his Driver Mr. Alex Ahigbe at the Green Africa Airline check-in-Counter. When our client was about to board the Aircraft, he was embarrassed by one Obinna Igbokwe who was described to be Green African Airline Desk Coordinator that he would not be allowed to go on board of your flight even when all formalities have been duly completed on the ground that it is the policy of Green Africa Airline not to allow any passenger with Physical Disability to travel on your flight unaided.

Our client did everything humanly possible to convince the Airline operators that he has completed his boarding formalities and the Airline is duty bound to call for necessary assistance in compliance with the best global practice in general and NCAA Policy in particular. Besides, our client’s driver was able to convince one of the travelers on the same Aircraft to give his boss a necessary helping hand to the aircraft. As if the above is not enough, one of the travelers equally travelling on the same aircraft volunteered to accompany our client on his trip since they were going to the same destination and to end the show of shame, dehumanizing and discrimination by the Airline against our client.

Mr. Igbokwe remained adamant and prevented our client from boarding the Aircraft inspite of all explanation.
Our client frantically searched for any official of NCAA to intervene in the ugly situation. Our client even told the Airline Officials that he has been travelling both Locally and Internationally on flights for more than 15 years on his own but have never been subjected to such a humiliation and discriminatory policy.

Consequently, our client was not only psychologically traumatized but failed to achieve the purpose of booking the Green Africa Airline for 7am to meet up with his scheduled programme for 9am at Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State.
It might be pertinent to put it on record that our client made enquiries for other airlines going to Ilorin same day. Luckily enough, our client was able to book another ticket of another Airline called Overland Airline later in the day and he was placed on their Aircraft without any modicum of difficulty.

We consider it pertinent to place it on record that personnel of Overland Airline that witnessed the way and manner our client was humiliated and dehumanized by your staff came to his rescue and offered our client all necessary assistance to go on their Airline. The personnel of Overland Airline were so humane, sympathetic and friendly.

Our client eventually left Lagos to Ilorin on a later flight though unable to meet his scheduled programme at 9am in the morning. In fact our client was about 3 hours behind the schedule of the programme he travelled for.

That your action and policy of your airline is glaringly in contravention of Section 14(1) of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (prohibition) Act 2019 and section 42 of Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended).

That your action is equally antithetical to Universal Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), In Particular:

Articles 4(3),5,9(1),19,26(1) and 33
Also Articles 5(2) and 15(1) of the Protocol to African Charter on Human and Peoples right on the rights of persons with Disability in Africa.

Article 4 of CRPD emphatically stated that tolerance, understanding and reasonable accommodation of Physically Challenged persons by those who do not suffer the same fate shall be encouraged. In other words, any person who does not suffer any physical disability owe a duty of care to the people with physical disabilities contrary to your Airlines so called policy and the inhuman treatment that our client was subjected to.

That our client was unable to attend the programme he was scheduled to attend in Ilorin which he had been paid for. Consequently, he was forced to refund the amount he was paid by the organizer of the programme and thereby suffered financial loss. In other words, the action of your Airline caused our client loss of income.

Also, your action caused our client loss of goodwill and integrity which cannot be quantified monetarily.

“We therefore demand N20 million for being damages for subjecting our client to untold hardship and psychological depression and a public apology to be published in at least two National Newspapers.

A N70,000.00 being refund of the flight ticket paid by our client with 10% interest. While sum of N2.5million being loss of Revenue/Income from the event he was paid to anchor in Ilorin, Kwara State.

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