Nigerian Police Assaults Airline Manager Over ‘Security Risk Passenger’

There was outrage among passengers and airline workers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA ), Lagos on Saturday following the arrest and harassment of the Duty Manager of Virgin Atlantic Airways and some other staff of the airline by some police officers who claimed to be acting on the instruction of the lnspector General of police.

The airline workers, a source said, were reportedly arrested and harassed by police officers for not allowing passenger to fly on a Virgin Atlantic Airways plane to London.

According to the source, the passenger arrived at the airport late and was told that checking in had closed. He was advised to return the next day but the passenger refused and insisted that he must be cleared to fly.

The airline officials took time to explain to him why he could not join the flight on the scheduled date, but the passenger insisted that he must be cleared. The airline officials stood their ground and in frustration, the passenger left. He, however, rained abuses on the airline officials and threatened to deal with them.

The next day, the passenger returned to the Virgin Atlantic check-in counter and allegedly continued his threat. He also abused the airline staff, creating a scene at the counter.

The airline staff consulted with their superiors and they resolved not to allow the passenger on board because he was considered a security risk to other passengers.

The passenger, it was learnt, made some phone calls and left.

To the amazement of airport workers, the passenger returned to the airport the third day, which was on Saturday with police officers clutching a warrant of arrest for the duty manager and another airline staff.

The policemen, a source hinted harassed and molested the airline staff threatening to take them to Abuja.

In the ensuing drama, the airline workers reached out to the airport authority, which stepped in.

According to an official of the airport, who pleaded not to be named, the Deputy Commissioner of Police at the Airport Police Command stepped in to resolve the issue.

But, the passenger not done yet, pressed further that the airline staff must be arrested and taken to Abuja for further necessary action.

Consequently, a police higher authority was said to have stepped in. It was learnt that an Assistant Inspector General of Police has been drafted to look into the issue and the lG’s office has allegedly insisted that the airline officials must report to Abuja to clear themselves.

An airport official said: “I am aware of this matter. It happened a few days ago. While processing check-in procedures a passenger arrived late, when the duty manager of the airline tried to make him understand that he had to return next day, the passenger got angry and exchanged bitter words threatening to deal with the airline staff.

“The next day the passenger returned to the airport still threatening to deal with the airline staff. At that time a decision was taken not to allow him join the flight because he could be a security risk to other passengers.

“The next day he invited police with a warrant of arrest to pick Virgin Atlantic staff. The police, we learnt molested airline staff, but did not take them out of the airport. We are following up on the matter.

“An assistant inspector general is handling the matter. By Monday, the inspector general’s office wants the airline to bring in its staff to explain a few issues. I am sure the matter will be amicably resolved.”

But, the airline official spared a thought on the deployment of Police to resolve alleged infractions by a passenger. ” I think it is an abuse of power by the police. I don’t think the lG knows anything about this matter. Some people may be using his name. But, if indeed the lG is behind it, it is scandalous. This is the much that can be said about the matter for now.

“In the aviation industry, there are clearly laid down procedures for addressing issues concerning unruly passenger. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has enough mechanism to address matters like this.

“Why should a passenger use the police to threaten an airline ? Why will the police allow themselves to be used by a passenger?”

Credit: The Nation

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