AVIATION officials have dragged Turkish Airlines before a federal high court in Abuja over the alleged criminal violation of the enabling law of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and for impunity.
In the first such case of its kind, Nigeria’s attorney-general Abubakar Malami, filed a three-count charge against the airline and two of its principal officers, Liker Ayci and Rasak Shobowale, the airline’s board chairman and commercial manager, respectively, before court. The prosecution came on the heels of the refusal by Turkish Airlines to respond to requests from the CPC for a full situation report on its alleged shoddy treatment of passengers on Flight TK 623 from Istanbul to Abuja December 25 and 31 2015 and January 9 2016.
According to the charge sheet, the federal government alleged that the accused persons between the December 20 2015 and March 2016 without sufficient cause refused to provide the CPC documents on Turkish Airlines’ policy on delayed baggage, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 18 of the CPC Act. They were also arraigned before the court for allegedly neglecting, without sufficient cause, to attend and testify before CPC on the number of passengers aboard Turkish Airlines Flight TK 623 from Istanbul to Abuja on December 25 and 31 2015 as well as January 9 2016.
In addition, the federal government also accused the airline and its two principal officers of violating the same section of the CPC Act by neglecting, without sufficient cause, to attend and testify before the consumer protection agency on the detailed steps taken by the airline to provide redress and compensation to passengers aboard its Flight TK 623 on the said dates, who were affected by its untimely delivery of baggage. The prosecution of the airline and its principal officers followed a warning by the federal government to the airline to respond within 21 days to CPC’s request for a full situation report or face prosecution.
In a letter dated March 17, 2016, the attorney-general had threatened to prosecute Turkish Airlines in the event that it failed to respond to the council’s lawful demand for the full situation report, irrespective of the airline’s engagement with any other relevant agency. He further asserted that after his office’s perusal of the documents submitted by CPC, including the airline’s letter of January 14, 2016 to the council, it was his considered opinion that the airline was not in any position to choose which government institution or laws to comply with and which one to treat with disdain.
Mr Malami wrote: “Your refusal, neglect or omission to oblige the CPC detailed information relating to delayed baggage of your passengers from December 2015 to January 2016 as requested is in breach of Section 18 of the Consumer Protection Council Act, 1992, and a deliberate attempt to ridicule a duly constituted authority. You are therefore instructed to fully comply with the request of the CPC within 21 days of receipt of this letter, otherwise show cause why criminal proceedings should not be commenced against you pursuant to Section 18 of the Consumer Protection Council Act 1992.”
Passengers of the affected flights, some of whom were said to have travelled with minors, were allegedly subjected to untold hardship, as they were forced to repeatedly check the airport in Abuja on the fate of their baggage, thereby incurring extra and unbudgeted expenses, including hotel accommodation without any form of support from the airline. In addition, the airline was reported not to have compensated the passengers affected in the incident.