Nigerian air carrier, Air Peace, on Friday threatened to go to court and demand compensation over what it described as loss incurred for the disruption of its operations at the Enugu Airport. The disruption followed disagreements over a N7 million debt the airline allegedly owes the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
But the chairman of the airline, Allen Onyema, said the airline had paid its debt, and threatened to sue the federal government, calling the disruption a sabotage.
Mr. Onyeama blamed the manager of the airport, Mgbemena Orjiakor, for the disruption.
He said if the airline was not adequately compensated for its losses, it will go to court.
“I got a call this that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) stopped our operations in Enugu over N7 million naira debt, which we have already paid.
“The airport manager did not go back to check his books to know if we actually paid or not but hurriedly stopped our operations, a situation that is costing us millions of naira.
“We do not know if the airport manager is sponsored by someone to bring down Air Peace because even after Lagos sent evidence of the payment, rather than own up to the fact that the agency lacked proper accounting system, the agency said the airline is owing an outstanding N1.8 million. This is why I said this act is sabotage,” he said.
According to Mr. Onyeama, another airline that owes over N11 billion to the government was allowed to operate that morning but Air Peace was temporarily shut down over N7 million it already paid.
“When I called the Enugu Airport manager to complain to him about the situation, he answered me rudely, saying I was talking like a riffraff,” he said.
“This same airport manager does not know that he is employed today because of the airline. How can he call me riffraff?
“If we are not adequately compensated for our losses, we promise the government that we will go to court. This is part of the reasons why airlines in Nigeria do not survive,” he said.
Commenting further, Mr. Onyema added: “I had to call Saleh Dunoma, the managing director of FAAN who was not aware of the situation. He politely told me that he will handle it and he was very sorry about the situation.
“The director of commercials also got across to me and also told me he was looking into the situation and they will get back to me.
“The director of human resources also got across to me and pleaded with me. Orjiakor…will have to explain to the world who sent him because I believe this is outright sabotage. That station manager was not remorseful.”
When contacted, FAAN’s spokesman, Henrietta Yakubu, said Air Peace had paid N2 million out of its outstanding N7 million debt prior to the disruption of its operations.
Mrs. Yakubu who apologised for the inconvenience the situation might have caused the airline and its passengers. She assured that FAAN would ensure there was no recurrence.