Following an alleged disruption of its operations, a private Nigerian Airline, Air Peace Ltd, has sued Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC).
The airline dragged the unions before the Federal High Court in Lagos over their “unruly” conducts and that of their officers.
In a suit brought before the court pursuant to Order 6(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Order 28 Rules 1 & 2 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019, Air Peace asked the court to award it N1 billion as general damages, N450 million as special damages and N250 million as exemplary damages.
The airline also sued 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 prayed the court to declare 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 company also asked the court to stop the unions from repeating such an act of intimidation and coercion against it.
The plaintiff, through its lawyer, Senior Adviser of Nigeria, Chijioke Okoli, told the court that the unions chanted songs and made noises on May 3, 2023, 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.
They were also accused of injuring customers who questioned their motive of disrupting their flights.
It was gathered by the airline 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.