EMIRATE Airlines has been ordered to pay compensation of $1.63m to Nigerian businessman Orji Ikem by a Lagos federal high court after it was found guilty of losing his luggage which contained the amount during a trip to China in 2007.
In the first such case of its kind, the airline was ordered to reimburse the money to Mr Ikem because it lost his hand luggage which contained the money. In his ruling, Justice Muslim Hassan also ordered Emirates Airlines to pay Mr Ikem N50m as damages for the untold hardship and loss of earning he suffered by the deprivation of use of his money from 2007 till date.
Mr Ikem has been involved in a legal battle with Emirates Airlines over the last 12 years to recover two pieces of hand luggage containing his personal effects. He claimed that the luggage also contained $700,000, as well as $930,000 in 18 bundles of $50,000 wraps each and $30,000 cash not wrapped up.
During the hearing, the court heard that the $930,000 belonged to another businessman, Olisaemeka Ugwunze, who wanted it delivered in China for purchases. According to Mr Ikem, at the departure lounge of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, Emirates Airlines staff requested that he handed the luggage to them for safe keeping in the cockpit but he refused and insisted on keeping them himself.
They insisted on keeping the luggage for him considering the huge amount of money contained therein and that on arrival destination, the two bags would be handed over to him. After a prolonged argument and in order not to miss his flight, Mr Ikem yielded and handed over the two hand carry-on bags to them and they were tagged with tag numbers EK428682 and EK428683, respectively.
However, that was the last time he saw the bags and the money. Upon Mr Ikem’s arrival in Guangzhou in China, the airline could not account for his four pieces of luggage and its counsel, Professor Awah Kalu failed to refute Mr Ikem’s claims.
Justice Hassan said: “I have read all the processes filed by both parties as well as their agreements and resolved that the only issue for determination is whether the plaintiff is entitled to the reliefs sought before this court. A claim not controverted is deemed admitted, in this case the defendants did not call witness but rather rests it case on that of the plaintiff which mean that all what the plaintiff claimed and their pleadings are admitted.
“I hold that Emirate Airlines failed in his obligations to customer by not delivering the luggage containing the sum of $1.630m. On the whole I hereby make the orders that Emirates Airlines pay the plaintiff the sum of $1.630m and that the defendant pay the sum of N50m to the defendant as damages. Parties shall bear their own respective costs.”