A reply to my last Saturday’s plane hijack column
BY PROF. KATE NWUFO
Dear Mr. Awoyinfa,
I HAVE just finished reading your write up on what happened on April 10, 2016 in Benin where it was claimed that some passengers ‘hijacked’ a plane.
I think that instead of blaming the passengers, that you should be castigating the irresponsibility and rascality of our so-called organised private sector who are not honest business people and could not care a damn for the Nigerian masses who patronise them.
I have been made to understand that Arik is very fond of doing that on the Benin-Abuja route because they have a monopoly on that route. Do an investigation on this. This is the first time I have taken the route and l believe l can in future trust my car and my driver more than irresponsible Arik Air.
I will like to give a better perspective of what happened that day because l was booked to travel on that flight from Benin to Abuja. My professional colleague had given our association the Nigerian Academy of Education of which l am the Secretary General notice since January 2016 that he and his wife were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary on April 9, 2016.
We his very close friends decided that we would attend, all things being equal. We all made our reservations with Arik as early as February 14, 2016. Even as early as that the ticket did not come cheap. We paid a whopping N40,856,000.
We arrived Benin on April 8 from Abuja without much incidence, checked into our hotel, and attended the well-organised event.
On Sunday April 10, we took off from the hotel and arrived the airport at 12 noon. We met people who had come in from other parts of Delta and Edo States who had arrived the airport since 8 am with valid tickets to connect international flights from Abuja.
By 2.30pm, Arik started checking in passengers for the flight to Abuja. We were there from the time we arrived the airport till having been told that our flight will come in by 4.10p.m. from Abuja. We were in the waiting lounge to board when we were told that the plane for Abuja had arrived by 4.45pm.
As we were lining up to pass through the gate, some people had already passed, when those of us still on the line were stopped. We were then told that the plane was not actually for us but for those who had attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the Okpella cement factory by the Dangote Group.
Let me tell you that nobody wants to be treated in an ignominious way after having booked an airline more than two months before the Dangote event. I also understand that the Chairman or MD of Arik was there threatening to pay us back the paltry money we paid for our flight which was chicken feed to him.
Though l was not very much in support of the holdup of the so-called chartered flight, the irresponsible utterances of the Arik people incensed the young people among us and they swore that the flight will not go even if it means that the two groups slept in Benin.
The young people of Nigeria will surely not tolerate what my own generation tolerated. They are in the forefront of ensuring that their rights were no longer trampled on by anybody. Even the security men (soldiers, police etc.) drafted to intimidate the young people failed because they themselves saw that it was a very tense situation which if not handled maturely will lead to the eruption of violence. They themselves left the ugly situation as they met it.
At 7.30pm those of us who had spent upwards of 7 hours had to leave. Some of these young people had spent all their money and did not have money to pay for a night in a hotel till the next day. Some people who were to catch their international flight would be forced to pay for no-show to be put on the next international flight.
Arik itself did not care a hoot where we slept. All they were telling us was that we should be back the next day for another 4.30 pm flight. This to me is the height of callousness and utmost wickedness.
I had to give two young people money to go stay in a hotel. Did Arik care? The Dangote guests were of course quartered in Protea Hotel, Benin. Arik could not be bothered. In fact, l had the opportunity of discussing with a white man on the issue telling him that the young people were stopping the flight to take them back, that it was an unfortunate episode.
He answered in the most unexpected manner by telling me that it was the airline that messed everybody up. But the Nigerians among those in the Dangote entourage not caring about our own dilemma were blabbing with impunity.
Those are Nigerians for you. Once you are on top others are lipids to be melted away and stepped on.
The media should always be on the side of the underdog. That is why the so-called organised private sector will always take advantage of the citizens of Nigeria because nobody calls them to order or write to support them.
l have already asked my lawyer to write a petition to CPC. We must be compensated for this ignominous treatment. In my visit to China in 2010, our flight was cancelled for four hours due to a technical problem. We were taken to a nearby hotel, fed and paid 500 Yuan each as compensation for inconvenience.
Not even a bottle of water was offered to us for the 7 hours we spent. When will Nigerian businessmen be honest, patriotic and treat people like human beings? This can only happen in Nigeria!!!!!!
I rest my case.
Prof. Kate Nwufo, mni