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Strike: Unions’ workers threaten to shut airports April 26, accuse Aviation Minister of high-handedness

Sen. Hadi Sirika, Honourable Minister for Aviation

*The striking aviation unions’ members also accuse the Minister for Aviation of destroying buildings for ‘his unapproved roadmap’, and lording it over the aviation industry in the country

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

The brewing trouble between the regulatory authorities and workers in the Nigerian aviation industry is yet not over.

The striking aviation unions’ workers, who protested and disrupted flight operations at the country’s airports Monday and Tuesday, April 17-18, 2023, during their two-day warning strike again, have threatened to totally shut down the country’s airspace next Wednesday, April 26, if the Federal Government fails to grant workers’ requests.

ConsumerConnect had reported the workers, during the warning Industrial action Monday, chanted solidarity songs at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos.

It was gathered Comrade Abdulrarak Saidu, one of the workers’ union leaders, expressed disappointment that nothing had been done to ensure that their conditions of service were implemented in the last eight years.

Saidu reportedly lampooned the Minister for Aviation for mandating the demolition of offices of agencies and parastatals in Lagos State.

Saidu was quoted to have stated that the Minister attempted to turn his policy into law and lord it over the aviation industry in Nigeria.

“For eight years, conditions of service were not implemented.

“Sirika usurps the functions of the governing boards. There is no check and balance.

“They wanted to coerce us to come to Abuja, but we did not go for the meeting. No conclusions, and no genuine meeting with the government,” said the union leader.

According to him, the Aviation Minister “wants to destroy buildings in the sector for a roadmap that was not approved for Lagos.

“Even the one approved in Abuja for the aerotropolis nothing has happened there and he wants to turn his policy into law.”

He further addressed the Minister: “When you are going in the next month (May), you want to pull down headquarters and leave nothing.

“After seven days, we go to a total shutdown. We will try to cut Nigeria away from other countries.”

Speaking with The Punch in Abuja, FCT, Ocheme Aba, Secretary-General of NUATE, disclosed the aviation union had given the government until this Friday to respond to their demands, after which they would meet and agree on the next line of action.

Aba, Secretary-General of NUATE, noted that the union was prepared to go all the way to ensure that their demands were met, as they had exhausted all other options.

Aba said: “As we stated in our notice of strike, if our demands are not met, then an indefinite strike will be inevitable.

“We tend to give the government till Friday, and then by next week, if we do not hear anything, we will meet and agree on the next line of action.”

Lucy Ukpen, First Vice-President of NUATE, who is also the union’s Women Leader, noted the industry unions were considering a full shutdown of aviation facilities across the country as they continue to demand better working conditions.

Ukpen noted the unions are assessing the situation, and will take the necessary steps if the government fails to respond to their demands.

“We are planning for a full shutdown. We are assessing the whole thing. “The leadership will look at it carefully and see the response from the government and if need be that we would go for a full strike, we will activate it.

Speaking on the expected date for the indefinite strike,” she said,

The NUATE Women Leader also stated: “We cannot say because it is not only one union that makes up the association. “Since the two days warning strike has ended, we would converge and have a meeting and look at the response from the government.

“That is when we would determine exactly the next line of action.”

Obiora Okonkwo, Spokesperson for the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has stated that the strikes by aviation workers have had an adverse impact on airline operations and their customers.

The strike, which began Monday, had caused significant disruption to air travel, as airlines were forced to cancel and reschedule flights.

“We are flying,” Okonkwo said, “except that it is stressful on the passengers and disruptive on the schedule.

“We hope they will come to a resolution for things to return to normal.”

As a result of the ongoing industrial action by Aviation unions in Lagos, Nigeria, offices of agencies of the Ministry of Aviation, including the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) have been locked down, report said.

The unions recently threatened to withdraw their services over the refusal of the Federal Government to release the reviewed condition of service negotiated over seven years ago.

Other grievances include the non-implementation of the National Minimum Wage consequential adjustments and arrears for workers of the Nigeria Meteorological Agency since 2019.

Aviation unions comprise the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees.

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