A private Nigerian Airline, Air Peace Ltd, has sued the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) before the Federal High Court in Lagos over the alleged disruption of its operations by the unions and its officers.
The airline is seeking N1 billion in general damages, N450 million in special damages, and N250 million in exemplary damages from the court.
The suit was filed in accordance with Order 6(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Order 28 Rules 1 & 2 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019, and the court’s inherent jurisdiction.
Also joined in the suit as defendants are the President of NLC, Joe Ajaero; the President of TUC, Festus Osifoh; the Sec-Gen. of NLC, one Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja and the General Secretary of TUC Comrade Nuhu Toro.
Air Peace is asking the court for a declaration that given the very sensitive nature of aviation ordinarily, and particularly in the current climate of pervasive fear of insecurity over long-distance travels within Nigeria by other modes of transportation, the defendants’ calculated precipitation of grounding all the plaintiff’s flights throughout Nigeria for the singular reason that it is responsible for the majority of air-passenger and goods flights in the country in order to cause substantial nationwide paralysis, constitutes condemnable sabotage of the national economy and security.
The plaintiffs also asked the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants by themselves, their agents/servants/privies or otherwise, howsoever, from repeating/continuing the acts of intimidation and coercion against it.
In documents put before the court, the airline, through their lawyer, Senior Adviser of Nigeria, Chijioke Okoli, stated that on May 3, 2023, its employees on duty were confronted by a noisy mob which invaded their offices, check-in counters and work areas at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos and the Murtala Mohammed Airport Terminal 1 (MM1) premises, essentially disrupting their work; disorganising and upturning tables, unplugging and pushing away desktops and personal computers used for employment by the employees, some of whom sustained injuries in the melee.
The airline also claimed that from the songs they sang and the instructions that the apparent leaders loudly issued during the disruption, it immediately became clear that the mob causing the disruptive scene were members of the NLC and TUC, some of whom got into violent altercations, injuring some of its customers and staff who voiced their frustrations at the disruption and frustration of their travel plans by the defendants’ antics.
They also stated that the defendant’s actions had inevitable ripple effects on their operations in other airports in the country, including the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, and Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, all of which the plaintiff’s scheduled flights could not take off from or land at.
The airline says it later learnt that the defendants, had some grouse against the Governor of Imo State, Chief Hope Uzodimma, and to “punish him”, decided upon a total shutdown of Imo State beginning from Wednesday, May 3, 2023, as was stated among other things in their joint communiqué of May 1, 2023.
“That Lagos is the operational hub and nerve centre of the airline operations, and a direct consequence of the defendants’ malicious and unlawful invasion of its work areas/offices and forcible prevention of its functions, as detailed above, was the cancellation of its flights billed for different destinations,” it said.
“Several Air Peace staff suffered physical molestation and incurred bruises which led to their psychological trauma and hospital visitations for treatments, with some having to be excused for some days’ absence from work to recover.”
In addition to the financial losses, Air Peace says it has also suffered a grave injury to its business reputation, not only in the eyes of its flying customers but also in those of the general public and its investors.
It said its lawyers wrote letters, dated May 12, 2023, to the defendants demanding that they promptly make amends for their unjustifiable, grievous and malicious injuries to it, but which demand they have disregarded and are instead threatening more disturbance and harm to its operations.
“That the defendants threatened and intend, unless restrained by the Honourable Court, to continue to intimidate and coerce the Plaintiff’s servants and customers and consequentially cause it more harm and losses,” it added.
Air Peace therefore concluded that the defendant’s conduct in the circumstances of this suit and leading to its significant losses are egregiously malicious, scandalous and most deserving of reproach by the award of general, special and exemplary damages which they put at N1.7bn.