Passengers stranded as aviation unions shut down MMA2

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Morocco navy fires on migrant boat, injuring one***

Hundreds of passengers were on Wednesday stranded as protesting aviation unions shut down operations at the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 operated by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the unions embarked on the protest alleging BASL’s sacking of 20 employees.

The protesting unions are the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).

As early as 6am, the union members, who defied a morning downpour, barricaded the entrance to the MMA2.

Their action came in spite of a court order restraining them from embarking on the protest.

The unionists, who chanted various solidarity songs, accused BASL management of violating extant labour laws by not recognising the unions and preventing staff from joining unions in the sector.

They prevented passengers going to catch their early morning flights, and also airline officials and people with businesses inside the terminal from gaining access to the premises.

The protest also caused heavy vehicular traffic around the airport environment, which spiralled to some parts of Ikeja and the Agege Motor Road.

Airlines affected by the action include Arik Air, Medview Airline, Azman Air, Max Air, Dana Air and Aero Contractors, which operate flights from the terminal.

There was heavy presence of security operatives including the Police and officers of the Nigeria Air Force in the area during the protest.

Mr Frances Akinjole, General Secretary, ATSSSAN, told NAN that the unions were compelled to carry out the action following the refusal of the BASL management to accede to their demands.

Akinjole said,”This issue started since May when these workers were laid off for indicating interest to belong to unions.

“We met the management asking them to reinstate these workers and recognise their rights to join unions but they refused.

“The regulator of the industry, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as well as aviation security agencies have intervened in series of meetings, but BASL management has refused to do the needful to avert this crisis.”

Akinjole denied knowledge of any court order restraining the unions from carrying out the action, stressing that what they were doing had legal backings.

However, Bi-Courtney in a statement issued by its spokesman, Mr Steve Omolale, said the company had obtained a court order from the Federal High Court, Lagos, restraining the unions from shutting down Nigeria’s only privately-owned terminal.

“We will like to bring it to the attention of the entire public that the Federal High Court in Lagos in suit number FHC/L/CS/16412/18 has granted an order restraining the unions from carrying out their threats of disrupting the activities of the terminal.

“Pursuant to this order, members of the unions found in the premises of MMA2 would be liable to trespass.

“We reserve our right under the law of Nigeria to deal with such person as a trespasser,” he said.

In the meantime, the Moroccan navy opened fire on a boat transporting migrants from the North African country, wounding one of them, a military source said on Wednesday.

Despite warning shots, “the motorboat that was carrying 58 migrants hidden under tarpaulin made a hostile move which forced the coastguard to fire at the captain,” said the source in Rabat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One of the Moroccan migrants suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder in the overnight operation to intercept the vessel off the town of Larache, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast.

The wounded migrant — a 16-year-old according to media reports — was transferred to a hospital in Tangier, the military source told AFP.

The others aboard the boat, including men and women of various ages, were brought ashore and handed over to the security forces, the source said.

More than 43,000 migrants have made it to Spain since the start of the year, including around 38,000 by sea, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Last weekend alone, around 1,800 migrants trying to reach the European Union were rescued in the Mediterranean by the Moroccan navy and Spanish coastguard.

Since Tuesday, the Moroccan navy had come to the aid of 15 inflatable boats carrying 366 migrants after they ran into trouble, the official MAP news agency reported, citing a military source.

The latest shooting was the second of its kind in two weeks.

On September 25, a Moroccan naval patrol opened fire on a “go-fast” speedboat ferrying migrants to Spain, killing a 22-year-old student and wounding three other people.

The authorities said that shooting was also in response to the boat’s “hostile manoeuvres” and pointed out that the migrants were concealed under tarpaulin.

A growing number of Moroccans are trying to leave their country illegally to reach Europe by sea or by crossing the wire fencing between Morocco and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa.

The kingdom is also a transit country for thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

Additional report from AFP